I was a Scholar in Virginia Tech’s Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program (PREP). PREP was created by the National Institutes of Health to encourage students from underrepresented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue research careers through competitive doctoral programs.
Students from underrepresented groups often feel ostracized and disconnected from their peers. My interactions with my advisor Dr. Martha Ann Bell and her lab, my Director: Dr. Ed Smith, my PREP mentor, Shara Grant, and my cohort provided me with a space in which I could feel connected, and this heightened my self-efficacy within and outside a laboratory setting. Instead of giving me minimal work, I was challenged to think critically. The support I received from prior mentors combated the negative feelings that arise from being one of few minorities in an academic setting, and I strive to do the same for others.
I serve as a mentor in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Researchers (SPUR) at Carnegie Mellon by supervising summer research apprenticeships of visiting undergraduate students. SPUR was created by PIER to encourage underrepresented, first-generation college, and economically disadvantaged students to pursue research careers through exposure to innovative research, experimental and statistical methods, and professional development skills that are essential to succeed in academia.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration holds its annual MLK Day of Service every year in January on Martin Luther King Day. MLK Day is normally a day that students "take off from classes," but it is truly a “Day On” when we take time to give back to the community and surrounding areas. I am grateful for the experience of facilitating groups of students as an MLK Day of Service Team Leader, as we volunteered together and listened to voices at the World in Conversation Day of Dialogue and discussed current challenges and how to address them.