The long-term goal of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC IMSD) is to contribute to diversifying the leadership of biomedical science. We work towards this goal through an integrated suite of synergistic junior scientist development programs. These programs span the range of developmental stages from high school through postdoctoral training, but the specific focus of UNC IMSD is biomedical PhD students from under-represented groups. Our approach is a comprehensive, personalized, start- to-finish program led by a team of expert PhD-trained Directors who work together to support the scientific, personal, and professional development of UNC biomedical PhD students from groups under-represented (UR) in the sciences. We hypothesize that activities targeted to empower UR students and enhance both scientific identity and self-efficacy at key transition points in their graduate training will increase the likelihood that they persist to degree completion and in their chosen scientific careers. UNC IMSD is embedded in the UNC Office of Graduate Education, an institutionally funded administrative unit that coordinates development, recruitment, and extensive support for 14 different PhD programs including the umbrella admissions and first year training program. Leadership in this Office is comprised of multiple PhD-trained program Directors, including the two Directors of IMSD, whose full-time roles are to facilitate student success and to inspire continual improvement in graduate education practices. The substantial resources devoted to graduate education at UNC through this Office provide numerous advantages to IMSD participants and members: i) ready access to expert advisors who have been through similar training themselves, ii) a large and supportive community of fellow students from under- represented groups, iii) individual academic support at key transitions (e.g. graduate coursework, critical literature analysis, rotation and thesis lab selection, qualifying exams), and iv) customized professional development opportunities. Since 2006 the IMSD program has supported 136 participants; 60 are still enrolled and on track to graduate, and 59 have graduated with a PhD (>87% retention). Participants have published 241 peer-reviewed publications, 106 as first authors. Moreover, during this period an additional 84 graduate students were affiliated members of the IMSD community and benefitted from the program. In the previous funding cycle, we institutionalized and broadly disseminated multiple successful innovations from earlier iterations of the program. These elements benefit all graduate students ? both under-represented and well- represented ? and include faculty mentor training and a dedicated wellness counselor. We also engaged in scholarship through several studies relevant to graduate admissions and workforce diversity; our studies have been published, and they have had impacts beyond UNC. In the proposed next phase of UNC IMSD, we will pursue the following core Aims: 1) develop and recruit high potential UR students, 2) facilitate academic and degree progress to PhD completion, and 3) foster a community of thriving future scientific leaders.
Our long-term goal is producing highly skilled UNC alumni to diversify the biomedical workforce leadership. We have established a comprehensive, personalized, start-to-finish program led by a team of dedicated PhD-trained Directors to develop, recruit, and empower PhD students from groups under-represented in the sciences, particularly at key transition points. We implement programs and activities that foster scientific identity, self-efficacy, leadership skills, and a supportive community to equip students to thrive in future scientific careers.
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