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Purdue University and Chicago State University Collaborate in Innovative STEM Mentoring Program

12-06-2023

WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA – Purdue University College of Science, in collaboration with Chicago State University (CSU), is proud to showcase their transformative initiative, Sloan-PReMiSS: Partnering in Research Mentoring for Minoritized Students in STEM. With generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the program is poised to break barriers and foster opportunities for students from backgrounds that are under-represented in the sciences.

The interdisciplinary effort represents a partnership between CSU’s Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Physics, Purdue's Departments of Biological Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, and the Purdue Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, and Research (CILMAR).

 

Goals and Significance:

The primary objective of Sloan-PReMiSS is to pave the way for students from backgrounds historically excluded and under-represented in STEM fields, fostering science identity and a sense of belonging from the outset of their academic journey. Purdue's commitment to expanding access to high-quality education aligns with the program's overarching goal: to drive systemic change and increase the university's capacity to welcome students from diverse backgrounds.

"This program represents a significant step towards breaking down barriers to graduate education for under-represented students in STEM," said Peristera Paschou, Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Strategic Initiatives for Purdue's College of Science. "By supporting student success and transforming mentoring practices at both Purdue and CSU, we aim to create lasting change rather than simply supporting a single cohort of students."

 

Summer Immersion and Mentoring Impact:

A crucial component of the program involves mentorship, pairing CSU's first-year students with faculty mentors from Purdue and CSU, along with graduate student mentors from Purdue. The mentoring program culminates in a summer visit to Purdue, providing CSU students with invaluable exposure to research experiences within Purdue labs. This hands-on approach not only enhances the students' preparedness for successful STEM careers, in particular those that require a graduate degree, but also enriches Purdue's faculty with cross-cultural mentoring experience.

Essential to the success of the PReMMiSS program is the collaboration with CSU colleagues and centering the student voices and experiences in the design of all components of the program.  “Through our conversations with our CSU colleagues and the CSU students and their mentors we have gained important insights into the types of supports that are needed for students and mentors to maximize the impact of the experience in the summer program and the PReMMiSS program as a whole.  These lessons learned from the CSU students in particular have already shaped parts of the program for the current and future cohorts” notes Stephanie Gardner, Associate Professor and Associate Head for Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning in the Department of Biological Sciences.

 

Community of Practice and Future Endeavors:

The program's success extends beyond mentor-mentee relationships. Regular community of practice meetings bring together faculty members from both institutions to discuss best practices for culturally inclusive mentoring. Workshops on effective cross-cultural communication contribute to building a cohort of mentors well-prepared to support students from all backgrounds. Kris Acheson-Clair, CILMAR’s director, commented, “Developing skill among faculty in culturally-responsive mentorship is key to transforming our campus into an environment where all students can thrive.”

As we look to the future, the Sloan-PREMISS community of practice remains committed to regular meetings, preparing to welcome a new cohort of students from CSU. The broader vision involves expanding the program to open paths to graduate education for all students.

 

Writer: Alisha Referda areferda@purdue.edu

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