BUILD EXITO enhances research opportunities at PSU, including new center for undergraduate research

By Arjun Viray

Cohort 8 scholars participate in intensive training workshop

Twenty-six Cohort 8 scholars participated in Portland State University’s BUILD EXITO new Research Training Intensive (RTI) workshop, a six-week long series that launched in April 2023.  

Because the EXITO grant is winding down, the scholars were only able to receive the first year of training. As such, the RTI was created as a way to help Cohort 8 get ready for undergraduate research and achieve academic and professional success. 

This intensive program focuses on four key areas:

  1. Understanding research environment 
  2. Professional research skills: A) Understanding how to read and critically analyze scientific journal articles; B) Obtaining an introduction to and completing the CITI Certification in Responsible Conduct of Research; and C) Crafting and delivering a professional and scientific "elevator pitch" 
  3. Figuring out next steps 
  4. Networking with researchers who have upcoming opportunities

The staff who helped run these workshops included leads Shandee Dixon, PhD, and Nadine Phoenix, PhD, facilitator and BUILD EXITO alumna Nancy MacKenzie, and EXITO Intro Year Coordinator Cassandra Ramirez. 

Dixon, BUILD EXITO Research Learning Community (RLC) Coordinator, said the RTI workshop series has been pivotal in equipping Cohort 8 with essential communication skills.

“I've been amazed to see them actively network with researchers across PSU and OHSU and show keen interest in understanding diverse types of research available to them as undergraduates,” Dixon said, adding that the RTI experience goes beyond technical learning to also foster partnerships at PSU and partner community colleges. 

“This interconnection helps to broaden the knowledge of research and internship opportunities for our future scientists, and, more importantly, it's building a community of peer mentors, supporting each other through their undergraduate journey.”

Cohort 7 scholars attend annual lab fair

On May 19, BUILD EXITO Cohort 7 scholars attended the annual Research Learning Community (RLC) Fair. At this virtual event, scholars got to meet RLC leads and lab members to learn more about various research opportunities and identify potential mentors for their research placement. 

This RLC Fair was a little different than previous years as BUILD EXITO invited other students from the DREAM program and Project Promotion Retention Opportunities Advancement (PROA) program, which are both programs under the EXITO umbrella. Over 20 students participated and they had the chance to pick and choose from 14 RLC labs. 

The main goals of the RLC Fair is that students: 

  • Learn about the faculty, their research and the opportunities for undergraduates in their RLCs
  • Ask RLC labs about their paid research experience opportunity
  • Ask how to follow up to inquire about their paid research experience opportunity
  • Make connections by practicing networking skills

BUILD EXITO RLC Coordinator, Shandee Dixon, PhD, said this year’s event “showcased the power of connection,” with students being able to network and make meaningful connections, as well as learn about numerous research opportunities. 

“Many students were exposed to areas of research they had not previously considered,” Dixon said. “I am happy to say, several students were able to secure research opportunities in labs of researchers they met at the Fair. The strength of these connections and the sharing of knowledge is testament to the value of the BUILD EXITO program.”

EXITO Faculty Helps Launch Student SACNAS Group at Portland State University

The newly formed PSU SACNAS student group met for the first time on May 10, 2023.

The newly formed PSU SACNAS student group met for the first time on May 10, 2023.

A new student Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) group at Portland State University launched in Spring 2023 with the help of Shandee Dixon, PhD, a PSU BUILD EXITO lead faculty. 

With SACNAS coming to Portland, Oregon, in October 2023, the need for such a group became increasingly apparent to help PSU students learn about SACNAS and participate in the upcoming conference.

On May 10, the PSU SACNAS student group had a kickoff event to welcome and inform interested students about SACNAS. Thanks to Dixon and Jono Abshier, a graduate student in the Extreme Virus Lab at PSU, 12 officers have been selected and more than 50 students have expressed interest in participating in the student chapter. Abshier is a SACNAS member alum from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

As summer continues to go by, this new student group will continue to meet and plan for the upcoming academic year and SACNAS Conference.

BUILD EXITO is also excited to announce that through various funding sources, all active scholars will be receiving financial support to attend the conference in October. 

“As a longstanding member of SACNAS, I am thrilled for the launch of our student chapter at PSU. I still remember the supportive and uplifting environment of SACNAS from my own undergraduate days. SACNAS encourages us to bring our unique cultures and lived experiences into our work as researchers,” Dixon said. 

“It's through this integration that our research becomes more accessible, relevant, and beneficial to the communities we come from and live in. I am excited for this experience to come to PSU, including having the National Conference in our hometown this year, and I look forward to seeing our SACNAS student chapter thrive and make a meaningful impact.”

EXITO PI debuts new Center for Internship, Mentoring, and Research at PSU Research Week

On May 9, Tom Keller, PhD, introduced the Center for Internship, Mentoring and Research (CIMR) at PSU’s Research Week. After almost 10 years at PSU, BUILD EXITO has developed numerous relationships and programming elements to support students. CIMR is one of the main sustainability projects BUILD EXITO aims to develop at PSU. 

CIMR is an emerging central opportunity hub for making connections to these programs and preparing to enter into research and internship opportunities. CIMR programs support students with the following:

  • Assessing personal interests and talents
  • Exploring education and career opportunities
  • Preparing a CV, resume and personal statement
  • Networking opportunities
  • Developing professional skills
  • Applying for programs and scholarships

In order to continue serving students, CIMR plans to feature a variety of programs that provide mentoring, advising and career development, including several that get students involved in faculty research projects and internships in community organizations. These programs include U-RISE, LSAMP, ISS Climate Internship and IGNITE.

To learn more about CIMR, watch the video of Keller at Research Week.

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The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.

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