This year, Nebraska EPSCoR is supporting the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute in providing activities to help underrepresented minority youth discover health or science careers. According to a UNMC news release:
"Many underrepresented minority and first-generation students have limited access to resources and opportunities; they just don’t know what they don’t know," said Liliana Bronner, director of medical pathways in the UNMC College of Medicine DEI Office. "How can children aspire to careers that they don’t know exist? Many kids don’t begin learning about careers until high school or later. Our goal with these summer programs is to help students curious about science and health begin the self-exploration process to illuminate potential career opportunities."
The programs are being coordinated by Bronner, working with Maurice Godfrey, PhD, and Shrawan Kumar, PhD, of MMI, to create a space where the students can be exposed to a variety of careers, research, and training at an academic medical center.
In early June, a four-day Health and Science Fun camp welcomed middle school students from American Indian communities. Part of the Science Education Partnership Award opportunities, the camp explored technology in health care, including a visit to the MMI virtual reality lab.
June also included shadowing opportunities at MMI for underrepresented minority students, in an effort to increase the diversity of people in professions that work with people with developmental disabilities and movement dysfunctions. And in the Find Your Future Career Exploration program, students gain opportunities to shadow professionals in recreation therapy, speech language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and psychiatry, among several others.
The Indigenous Summer Program for Advancing Research Knowledge (I-SPARK) in June is another part of the collaboration.
"We’ve invited high school students who are interested in health care," Bronner said, to focus on the different clinical and research careers we train for here (at UNMC), with neurology and the study of neurological disorders as a career path. I-SPARK is also supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Bronner said the activities include “soft skills” such as resume writing, the college application process, financial wellness, and studying strategies.
"Many of these students are first-generation, low-income students, so their families may not know the pathways to higher education or health careers," Bronner said. She added that providing this information, and allowing students to meet people in these careers, may help young people develop new ambitions and put students on a pathway for reaching goals.
Godfrey said funding from the National Institutes of Health-National Institute of General Medical Science, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Nebraska EPSCoR helps provide these STEM-related outreach experiences for students who might not otherwise have such opportunities.
Nebraska EPSCoR is funded by the National Science Foundation via OIA-2044049, Nebraska EQUATE.