As the United States becomes more diverse, it is imperative that institutions of higher education accelerate their efforts to ensure equity in the number of doctoral degrees awarded to students who are members of underrepresented (UR) groups. The University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) is committed to this goal, and uniquely situated culturally and geographically to meet this need. The CU Denver campus is consolidated with the Anschutz Medical Campus (Anschutz) and, together, is classified as a ?Doctoral University: Higher Research Activity?, with more than $400 million in annual sponsored research funding. As such, CU Denver is the only urban public research university in the State of Colorado, and it has the most diverse student body of any University of Colorado campus. In 2016, at least 34% of entering freshmen identified as underrepresented minority (URM) students and at least 57% as students of color. CU Denver was awarded its first MARC U-STAR award on May 22, 2013 (NIGMS T34 GM096958; 2013-2018), and is one of only two in the state. This competing renewal expands the successful initial development of the CU Denver MARC U-STAR program in several important ways. First, it broadens the focus of the first award (supporting students in the biomedical- oriented behavioral sciences) to the biomedical sciences more broadly by providing 24-month support to 40 additional rising junior undergraduates (eight new scholars per year) majoring in Integrative Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Public Health. Second, it expands and further institutionalizes a series of successful undergraduate Behavioral and Biomedical Research training courses, developed for the MARC program and taken by all MARC scholars, to accompany and facilitate their authentic research experiences. Third, it leverages and supports an institutionally-funded pre-MARC ?U-RISE? program, developed by the principal investigators and program staff, to identify and support freshman, sophomore, and transfer students with authentic research experiences that engage early interests in research careers. The CU Denver MARC program complements and extends other training programs at CU Denver and Anschutz, expanding an institutional culture that supports the success of UR students and their entrance into doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences. The new efforts described here, focused on expanding our initial successful work with recruitment and training of MARC scholars from the Psychology Department, and building the base of students interested in these opportunities, are complemented by a rigorous, external program evaluation that continuously assesses the effectiveness and relevance of our program activities, and includes intentional outcomes in program optimization and scholarly dissemination. The MARC program enjoys strong institutional support and has already helped transform the climate of diversity and inclusion at CU Denver. These efforts, together with an outstanding research environment and culture of support for diversity and inclusion, will help the CU Denver MARC U-STAR program continue to meet the overarching MARC program goal that 90% of supported students graduate with a STEM degree and at least 60% will matriculate into Ph.D. (or combined M.D./Ph.D.) programs in the biomedical sciences with a completion rate of at least 80%.
The CU Denver MARC U-STAR Scholars program prepares students underrepresented in biomedical sciences for graduate school in academic biomedical research through experiential in-class learning and on and off-campus research experiences. Diversity in the Ph.D. workforce in both higher education and research settings will contribute to biomedical and behavioral advances, to economic growth in a global, knowledge-based economy, and to addressing the needs of underrepresented communities regarding health-related research. Interdisciplinary training is essential for developing scientists who are prepared to address the complex ways in which health status and outcomes relate to multiple factors.