The University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK) proposes a competing continuation of the Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER), an Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) program. Peer offers students from underrepresented minority (UR) groups a unique program of professional development in their first two years as graduate students. This program provides activities, workshops, close mentoring, and academic support to provide the underpinnings for holistic training that is essential to lay the foundation for success in graduate school and in the biomedical/behavioral science career to which our students aspire. PEER Scholars have the opportunity to gain crucial 21st century professional skills, and be mentored by world class scientists, all within a supportive community created by and for the Scholars. PEER's goal is to leverage these attributes to create a program of excellence that will produce at UTK an increased number of accomplished, competitive and determined UR Ph.D.'s who attain careers in biomedical research characterized by significant contributions to their fields, and thus contribute to our nation's health and wellbeing. To accomplish this goal, PEER has the following Specific Aims: 1. Increase Students from UR Groups Earning Ph.D. Degrees in Biomedical or Behavioral Science; 2. Retain UR Students and Reduce the Gap in Completion of Ph.D. Degrees; and 3. Achieve Excellence and Promote Best Practices for Holistic Graduate Student Development.
The aims will be achieved with specially designed initiatives: 1) team-building and collaborative endeavors; 2) relevant and challenging academic enrichment; 3) broad professional development that acknowledges issues of UR students and universal needs; and 4) a support system that provides honest critiques, close mentoring, a balanced perspective on the profession, and tools to persevere and enjoy life as a scientist. The PEER Basic Plan initiatives include a comprehensive PEER Orientation, discourse meetings for creating community, close mentoring, and a series of professional development workshops. In addition to the PEER Basic Ph.D. plan, our interest is in providing activities for the campus at large that will positively imact PhD students in multiple PEER departments. For this reason, we also have a plan to continue with our annual PEER all-STEM Symposium. Furthermore, we will offer new workshops for PEER students, their graduate student colleagues, mentors, advisors and administrations. The workshops focus on improved mentoring and on diversity awareness. Our integrated assessment/evaluation plan will reveal best practices that can be disseminated among the broader scientific public.

Public Health Relevance

Our nation's 'quiet crisis' is due in large part to the fact that underrepresented minorities (URMs) are profoundly underrepresented in the science professions, and thus do not have an equal voice in venues where health and human welfare policy is determined and world-class biomedical/behavioral research is conducted. This, in turn, contributes to health disparities and other more subtle inequities for our nation's underserved. To address this crisis, the University of Tennessee Knoxville's (UTK) Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER), a proposed IMSD program in the MORE Division, will be a 'program of excellence' that will produce from PEER, UTK's Graduate School of Genome Science and Technology, and the university at large, an increased number of accomplished, competitive and determined URM Ph.D.'s who attain careers in biomedical research characterized by significant contributions to their fields, take their place at the tables where th nation's science policy and research agendas are determined, and contribute to our nation's health and wellbeing.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Education Projects (R25)
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Minority Programs Review Subcommittee A (MPRC)
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Ravichandran, Veerasamy
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University of Tennessee Knoxville
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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