Tomorrow is the Summer 2015 Faculty Consensus Group meeting at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach, so I’ve been getting some slides together this afternoon to report out on a variety of topics.
One theme that CSUPERB decided to focus upon these next three years is “mentoring.” During our strategic planning process last year, we heard about the ongoing need to mentor and offer professional development opportunities to assistant professors, grant proposal writers at all levels, instructors interested in active learning pedagogies, nascent entrepreneurs, research students and classroom learners. CSUPERB faculty saw the need to support and set up for success all these stakeholder groups.
To get started on this 3-year plan, tomorrow’s FCG meeting includes a ‘mini-symposium’ on Research Student Mentoring (“Developing Effective Faculty Mentors & Building Longer-lasting Student-Faculty Relationships”). CSUPERB is keenly aware of the need to mentor our diverse student researchers; like all CSU students, they are diverse in many ways (socioeconomic, ethnicity,* geographic, first in family to attend college, what they want to do with their degree, etc.). We especially understand the work we do (at scale!) in the CSU can have great impact on the number of underrepresented students we graduate into biotech jobs, medical schools and graduate programs. Indeed, we have compelling data showing that over 80% of the student researchers supported on CSUPERB grants do go on to life science-related careers.
Tomorrow Dr. Aisha Taylor (JONES Inclusive Leadership) will kick off the discussion with some background on critical race theory and cultural competency skill development. Then we’ll hear from the three programs starting up their NIH BUILD programs at CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge and San Francisco State University. Each BUILD program has a unique perspective on what it takes to effectively mentor student researchers. We plan to expand this mini-symposium into another workshop for faculty in the “Effective STEM Education” series we offer at the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium – so stay tuned for that opportunity!
We always ask our annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium participants what they plan to do after graduation or degree completion. Here is what they reported this year (click to make figure larger):
As many of us know, graduates with biotechnology research experience have a leg up in the job market or graduate school admissions process. There are many career paths to pursue for students with team-based, hands-on research project experience!
We’ve also been hearing back from our Howell and Presidents’ Commission Scholar alumni this summer. We can compare our current students’ career plans to the “last known status” of our Howell Scholars (2008-2014; n = 79) to see what really happens after graduation (figure below, click to see larger version; remember this data spans the Great Recession!). The outcomes are surprisingly similar to our current students’ dreams!
Alumni have opinions about what made a difference to them, now that they can look back with some real-world perspective. The Presidents’ Commission Scholars are particularly interesting to us – this is the program that funds students for a summer research experience after their freshman or sophomore year. Eligibility is restricted to those students who are not part of a research learning community already (MARC, RISE, HHMI, etc.) or have had research experience before. We encourage faculty to sponsor “at risk” students and look beyond GPA and the other usual indicators of academic success.
Using some of the Gallup-Purdue indicators of what matters in an undergraduate education, we asked the Howell and Presidents’ Commission Scholar alumni about their relationship to their research mentor (figure at left, click to make larger). The green bars show agreement; the red is disagreement. We still see that alumni were not always exposed to a variety of career path options, even though student researchers – even as undergraduates – already have a diverse set of opinions on where they are headed. Scholars are candid about admitting they were hesitant to confess dreams of medical school or biotech jobs to their research mentors.
FCG and CSUPERB faculty know that mentors need to listen to students’ goals and dreams. But we also need to listen to and respect the choices of students who plan to pursue careers in non-academic research settings – the very field about which our faculty mentors are most informed!
In answer, CSUPERB organizes the Career Networking Session (CNS) at the symposium every year. Alumni and professionals working across the life science industry come together to talk with students about preclinical research, regulatory affairs, discovery research and other “research-relevant” career paths outside academia. The CNS is one “touch” a year, admittedly, but with NIH and CIRM-funding campuses are mimicking the format and organizing similar sessions on campus to increase access to this important information.
Meanwhile, every year the CSU’s biotechnology faculty mentor thousands of students in their research labs. To gain perspective on the impact of that experience, I’ll leave the last words to our Presidents’ Commission graduates.
* Here is the breakdown for student participants at the 2015 CSU Biotechnology Symposium, by ethnicity; nearly all present research posters at the event. You can compare these data to the CSU’s Fall 2014 enrollment, by ethnicity, found here: http://www.calstate.edu/pa/2015Facts/documents/facts2015.pdf