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KGI Partners with UCR to Help College Sophomores Succeed in Science

Keck Graduate Institute is proud to have collaborated with the University of California, Riverside (UCR) on a recently awarded five-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships, academic support, research experience and internships for a small group of sophomores majoring in science.

The pilot project, known as PERSIST (Promoting Engagement, Retention and Success in STEM Training), will help 12 sophomores who demonstrate financial need each year, for a total of 60 scholarships over five years. Each student will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

The goal of PERSIST is to create a bridge to upper division continuation and to support sophomores as they continue to pursue STEM degrees. Since data has shown that efforts to improve retention for students in STEM fields are most critical for freshman and sophomores, the scholarship is an important facet of the program according to UCR’s Divisional Dean of Student Academic Affairs, Michael McKibben. The financial assistance is given to decrease the need for low-income students to work part-time and to increase their opportunities to be involved in second-year undergraduate research and internships that can lead to more students who complete degrees in STEM.

In addition to the scholarship, the program also includes the Early Student Career Planning Expo (ESCAPE), a biotechnology career workshop, and peer mentor pairing. The ESCAPE event will be an all day Saturday event focusing on STEM careers and will bring UCR alumni and donors, and research-active Science Ambassadors from the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences at UCR, and will also feature career panels in industry and technology, government and academia, and health professions. 

KGI will play an important role in the PERSIST program by hosting a biotechnology career workshop on its campus in Claremont, CA in February 2017 and will also provide student mentors to the UCR college sophomores. The KGI mentors will be second-year Professional Science Master’s (PSM) students, which means they will all have work experience within the bioscience industries and will be able to serve as meaningful advisors to their younger mentees.

Speaking of the importance of the career day workshop, Dean of the School of Applied Life Sciences at KGI, Steve Casper said, “The career day workshop we will host is a good example of what we do every day at KGI-reach out to talented individuals to raise awareness of the multitude of career options in the life sciences.”

Additionally, PERSIST students will visit KGI each year to attend a one-day workshop where they will participate in active-learning projects that will allow them to explore the various sectors of the biotechnology industry. These include bioprocessing, devices and diagnostics, regulatory affairs, clinical trial design, intellectual property management, and pharmaceutical development.

Dean Casper noted the value PERSIST students will gain from participating in the program’s various activities. “With the help of the program, these students will be able to learn more about STEM careers that will hopefully enable them to make meaningful career decisions. The exposure they will get to industry professionals however is paramount. Validation from industry professionals is key to student success and can provide them with that extra push and motivation to pursue something they may have thought was otherwise not possible.”