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Pipeline to Graduate Education and Careers in Behavioral and Social Science Research for URM Undergraduates: Addressing HIV in Sexual and Gender Minority Communities

This new application for a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Education Mentoring Program for HIV/AIDS Researchers will provide a two year intensive research mentoring experience for students from under-represented groups interested in careers in the social and behavioral sciences of HIV/AIDS. Student Opportunities in AIDS Research (SOAR) at the University of Michigan is modeled on the evidence-based McNair Scholars pipeline program for under-represented undergraduates bound for doctoral study. The SOAR program is innovative, interdisciplinary, evidence-based, and embedded in multiple research support networks and academic programs at Michigan. SOAR will be hosted at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), a research unit at the Office of Research. The foundation of our program is mentored research with Michigan faculty. Prominent HIV/AIDS and sexuality and health researchers from Literature, Science and the Arts, Nursing, Social Work, and Public Health will provide intensive individual research experiences, supported by all the academic services in their units. Students will earn academic credit for research with faculty, which will begin with placement in their junior year and continue through two academic years and the intervening summer. Students in their junior and senior years will learn in exclusive seminar setting and also receive wrap-around support for developing an individualized path to graduate study. The Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the School of Public Health will sponsor the core class for the SOAR program and staff it with tenure-line faculty, embedding the student experience in a small seminar-style experience. We will provide mentoring training for faculty mentors as well as develop the students as peer mentors and doctoral students as near-peer mentors. Our research education plan is guided by Social Cognitive Career Theory (SSCT) and feminist and anti-racist pedagogies designed for empowerment of students from under-represented minority backgrounds, rural areas and lower income or first generation families, and students with disabilities. Our specific aims are 1): to train and develop cohorts of diverse undergraduates in social and behavioral science research about HIV/AIDS; 2) to launch undergraduate student participants into doctoral programs through integration with the faculty leadership and training cohort, using partnered research experiences and one-on-one mentoring through the graduate school application process, and 3): to train faculty leaders, graduate student assistants, and students in mentoring to ensure the success of SOAR as well as demonstrate that mentoring and receiving mentoring is a critical career skill at every research career stage.

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