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A mixed method study of exemplary research opportunity interventions: Bridging theory-driven research with program innovation.



The need to further diversify biomedical science fields is made more urgent by the persistent underrepresentation of talented African American and Latina/o undergraduates who enter graduate study and choose related research careers. Major research universities have demonstrated impressive potential to reduce such disparities through undergraduate research opportunity interventions that are formally organized around a research project supervised by faculty mentors. Underrepresented minority students (UMS) have experienced significant success in these innovative programs. However, the mechanisms underlying their success or difficulties as program participants are not well explicated. The proposed theory-driven study seeks to clarify factors that impede and promote successful program outcomes among UMS in two nationally recognized interventions -- the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) at Big Ten Universities and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) at the University of Michigan. Building on a strength-based role strain and adaptation model, two major assumptions guide the proposed research: (1) successful program outcomes among UMS may be impeded by both objective (i.e. academic preparation) and cognitive (i.e. role conflict, overload, ambiguity, and discouragement) aspects of student role strain; and (2) program innovation can promote greater success among UMS by combining formal faculty mentoring with adaptive social psychological strengths including informal support and social-cognitive orientations. The specific aims of this theory-driven and mixed-method project on UMS in SROP and UROP are to: combine secondary analysis with survey measurement development, quasi-experimental, and qualitative methods to further clarify links between pivotal role strain and adaptation mechanisms and program success. A better understanding of UMS role difficulties and their adaptive social psychological strengths can inform the development of more comprehensive strategies to improve success in pipeline programs, and in turn, promote both academic and career diversity. Long term, this research project can: (a) provide the foundation for a Strength-based Assessment System with high quality measures; (b) promote more comprehensive innovation within pipeline programs for UMS during critical transition stages (i.e. middle-to-high school, high school-to-college, undergraduate-to- graduate school, college-to-professional career); and (c) help to increase the number of UMS who fully benefit from programs, obtain graduate degrees and succeed in biomedical research careers. Public Health Relevance Statement: This study is relevant to public health because it clarifies pivotal role strain and adaptation mechanisms that may impede and facilitate successful outcomes among underrepresented minority students (UMS) in exemplary interventions that promote entry into biomedical research careers. This theory-driven study can foster program innovation by clarifying how formal faculty mentor-centered activities combine with informal support and social psychological strengths to promote successful program outcomes. The proposed study also provides the foundation for a Strength-based Assessment System that includes useful measures of pivotal role strain and adaptation concepts to inform interventions designed to promote success among UMS in educational settings. A better understanding of role strain and adaptation issues can help to guide more comprehensive and innovative strategies in pipeline programs for UMS at critical transition points (i.e. middle-to- high school, high school-to-college, undergraduate-to-graduate school, college-to-professional career) to further diversify the public health research and professional workforce.

Other Details

  • Affiliation: U of Michigan
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Funding Mechanism: RFA-GM-09-011
  • Keyword: base
  • Other Investigators: Carter&Ebreo,Angela&Deborah
  • Primary Investigator: Bowman Phillip