Guidelines Recommended to Replicate Successful Spend a Summer with a Scientist Program
| The CRPC's Spend a Summer with a Scientist (SaS) program successfully
recruits minority undergraduates into graduate school and retains minority
graduate students at Rice University, according to a recently released
report by the LEAD Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Commissioned by the National Partnership for Advanced Computational
Infrastructure (NPACI), the LEAD evaluation was conducted to determine
whether the SaS program could be replicated at other institutions so its
impact could be broadened to a national scale.
Established in 1989, SaS provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in university activities and work for the summer under the guidance of center researchers. Directed by Richard Tapia, Noah Harding Professor and CRPC Director of Human Resources and Education, the program involves students in research and motivates them to attend or continue graduate school. SaS participants work with researchers from five computational science departments at Rice and from the Keck Center for Computational Biology, a collaboration of Rice, the Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Houston.
The LEAD team evaluated the program in 1997 using student academic outcome data, participant interviews and surveys, and on-site observation of the program in progress. The resulting report concluded that participants are enrolling in graduate school and obtaining graduate degrees at an unusually high rate. Most participants felt the SaS had a powerful effect on their decisions about and success in pursuing advanced degrees.
"The role of the SaS student community in the success of the program cannot be underestimated," the report stated. "While the program director plays the role of mentor and guide for many of the students in the program, the size and cohesiveness of the SaS student community allows support to come from multiple individuals rather than a single mentoring relationship. As a result, students within the community can 'fill in' for the program director in circumstances where he is not available and can gain their own valuable experiences as mentors."
The LEAD report identified other essential elements in the student community, as well as criteria for the program director and research projects, that were critical in bringing about the success of the SaS program. It suggested guidelines on how to replicate the program at other institutions.
"Although the results of this evaluation have shown the SaS program to be remarkably successful at achieving its stated objectives, readers should note that such favorable outcomes have taken many years to achieve," the report concluded. "Those wishing to achieve success as quickly as possible are advised to incorporate formative evaluation and tracking of program participants into their program from the very start. In the end, those programs whose administrators are both patient and flexible will achieve the greatest success."
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