Diversity Recruitment Efforts

Recruitment and Retention Plan to Enhance Diversity

A.  History

The recruitment of students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (herein referred to as URMs) into training programs in the “hard sciences” is a complex and vexing issue. However, minority recruiting and training are high priorities not only at NIGMS but also of this Training Program. At any given time, two out of the 5-6 NIH slots are used to support and train URM students.  Consequently, 7 of the 27 students (26%) who have been newly appointed to the Training Program and supported by NIH funds since 2011 are from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.  These are excellent statistics, given that only 7% of the population of the State of Iowa are URMs.  These numbers underscore the commitment of the Training Program to diversity, and presage that the program will continue as a force in bringing young scientists from underrepresented populations into career training in biotechnology. 

Since 2009 two of students with disabilities have participated in the Training Program, one supported by NIH and the other by CBB.  In keeping with Federal Law (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as Amended, Revised Ed. 1998), these students are not identified herein.

B.  Institutional Resources and Efforts

The Training Program has utilized various institutional resources to build the solid record of URM participation outlined in the preceding paragraph.  These are summarized in the following:

  • The Graduate College supports various programs that aim to increase the participation of minority undergraduate students in research programs at the University of Iowa.  Among these is the Summer Research Opportunity Program, which brings minority undergraduates to campus for ten-week summer research experiences in laboratories of various investigators.  Training Program faculty have served as research mentors of SROP students. 
  • Professor Tonya Peeples of the Training Program and the Department of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering is the Associate Dean for Diversity and Outreach in the College of Engineering (COE).  The Training Program has benefitted from a close relationship with her office.  Professor Peeples is a trainer, as well as a member of the Coordinating Committee, of the Training Program. 
  • The Division of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry (MNPC) of the College of Pharmacy takes a personal approach to diversity recruiting. MNPC utilizes lists provided by the GRE testing service, and contacts qualified diversity students by individual letter to invite them to apply to the program and to apprise them of training opportunities at the UI. The MNPC Division currently has 6 URM students in their cohort of 23 graduate students (~25%). Several MNPC faculty are participants of the Training Program:  Duffel (trainer), Kerns (trainer, Coordinating Committee, coPI), Jin (trainer), Roman (trainer), Rice (trainer), Spies (trainer). Hence, the Training Program benefits from MNPC recruiting efforts. For example, Christina Fernandez-Perez, Brigitte Vanle and Justine Delgado were recruited to the Training Program via their matriculation into MNPC.
  • The Departments of Chemistry and of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering (C&BE) have been recipients of GAANN grants from the Department of Education.  The programs that GAANN grants support aim to increase the participation in STEM graduate education of individuals from underrepresented racial, ethnic and disadvantaged populations.  In both Chemistry and C&BE, GAANN support has promoted the development of racial diversity among graduate students.  Trainees Watkins and Lodge were recruited to Chemistry through the resources that the GAAN program provided.  C&BE recently realized renewal of their GAANN support, and Professor Peeples is the PI.  A new application from the Department of Chemistry for a GAANN grant is being prepared for submission in May of 2015.
  • The Training Program is committed to providing a supportive environment for professional development of minority scientists.  A student chapter of NOBCChE has been established at the University of Iowa.  Trainees Watkins and Lodge are past officers of the local chapter, while trainee Vanle is a current officer.  The local NOBBChE chapter hosted the Midwest Regional Meeting of NOBBChE in the fall of 2010.  Professors Peeples and Quinn of the Training Program serve as chapter advisors.  Quinn worked with the local NOBBChE officers on fundraising and arrangements for the meeting, and the Training Program served as meeting sponsor. 
  • The UI chapter will again host the Midwest Regional Meeting of NOBBChE in the Spring of 2016.  Again the Training Program will sponsor the meeting and Quinn and Peeples of the Training Program will assist the local chapter.  It is expected that this meeting will attract ~100 minority students and associated faculty to the University of Iowa.  Quinn will give the closing address of the meeting.  The leadership of the Training Program views this as an excellent opportunity to recruit minority students into our graduate programs.

C.  Recent Efforts by Training Program Faculty

Over the past five years, faculty of the University of Iowa Predoctoral Training Program in Biotechnology have contributed in numerous ways to the recruitment and training of URM students.  These efforts include the following:

  • Amnon Kohen gave seminars at UT Arlington and Texas State, which have large URM populations, and has invited Prof. Kayunta Johnson-Winters from UT Arlington to give a seminar at Iowa in the Fall of 2015. In 2106 Kohen made a recruiting trip to Fort Lewis College in Colorado, a school that serves an undergraduate population that is mainly Native American.
  • David Wiemer has recruited at Hispanic serving colleges in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.
  • Dan Quinn gave recruiting seminars in 2013 at two prominently Hispanic serving institutions:  St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX, and the University of California – Merced.
  • Ernesto Fuentes gave a recruiting seminar at Morehouse College in 2010.
  • As Admission Director of the Department of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, Eric Nuxoll works with the National GEM Consortium to recruit URM graduate students.
  • Two undergraduate students with disabilities have trained in Mishtu Dey’s lab.
  • The following Training Program faculty have trained or are training URM undergraduate students in their laboratories:  Ahern, Dey, Fiegel, Fuentes, Haes, MacGillivray, Nuxoll, Quinn, Salem, Schultz, Shea, Yahr.
  • The following Training Program faculty have trained or are training URM graduate students in their laboratories:  Ahern, Arnold, Fuentes, Duffel, Haes, Kerns, MacGillivray, Quinn, Rice, Salem, Wiemer.

D.  Continues Efforts

The Training Program will continue to utilize the recruiting tools that are described above. 

These include:

  1. Mentor summer undergraduate research students in laboratories of Training Program faculty.
  2. Utilize the resources of the GAANN Programs to specifically recruit minority students into the graduate programs of the participating departments of the Training Program. 
  3. Attend conferences in which large numbers of underrepresented undergraduate minority students present their research results.  These  include the SROP conference, NOBCChE conferences, and the conferences of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida/Georgia.  Training Program faculty have visited these conferences in the past.
  4. The Training Program will continue the successful collaboration with URM development programs in the College of Engineering and the Division of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy.   
  5. Last year, the University of Iowa won a Sloan grant to supplement URM graduate students with opportunities for research, meetings, and other career enhancing elements. The PI and other trainers of this T32 are also trainers of the Sloan award, and will devote their efforts to enhancing the training experience of URM students in Iowa.

E.  Student with Disabilities or Disadvantaged Backgrounds

The University of Iowa’s office of Student Support Services works with faculty, departments and programs to insure that students with disabilities have fair and equal access to educational resources and opportunities.  For example, the office arranges special accommodations at test-taking time for students with cognitive or motor disabilities.  Such arrangements have already been made for a student during the course Introduction to Biocatalysis, which is team-taught by the Professors Kohen, Peeples and Quinn of the Training Program.

The Training Program is initiating an effort to identify trainee applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have disabilities.  Providing such information is voluntary, and the information will be handled in a manner that protects students’ rights under the Family Educational Rights and Policy Act of 1974 (FERPA).  Two queries on the opening page of the application form in Appendix 5 seek this information.

As discussed above, the Training Program faculty has a track record of training students with disabilities at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.