Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Aug 27, 2012, 12:08 PM

Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides students with training, experience and mentoring to make them stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. Interns attend lecture sessions, complete Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) preparation, and work with mentors to write a research paper, which they present as a poster. This year’s program was held at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. This is part of a series of posts where scholars who completed the program discuss the experience. Learn more about Project L/EARN.

Brandon McDonald
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Rising Senior at the University of Rochester
Major: Public Health
Internship Research Project: Marital Status as a Predictor of Dental Health Service Utilization

Human Capital Blog: What did you expect before you arrived? How different is the reality?

Brandon McDonald: When I first arrived at Project L/EARN, I expected there’d be a sense of difficulty as well as more independent-based projects. In actuality, I realized that there’s a broader sense of structure and a bigger support system than I would have ever expected. There are different segments when the papers are due so you have [more] connections with your mentor than what I would have thought as well.

HCB: How does your Project L/EARN experience relate to or support your educational and professional goals?

McDonald: My educational goals are to pursue a degree in dentistry and career in dentistry. Through Project L/EARN I was able to develop a project that studied dental health utilization, and that just helped solidify my goals and aspirations to become a dentist and study the different disparate populations within the District. Project L/EARN experience is a difficult program but the chance to develop a connection with an expert in my field was highly worthwhile.

Patricia Calixte-Civil
Hometown: Irvington, NJ
Rising senior at Rutgers University
Major: Psychology
Internship Research Project: Predictors of Post-Treatment Drinking Behavior among Women with Alcohol Use Disorders

Human Capital Blog: What did you expect before you arrived? How different is the reality?

Patricia Calixte-Civil: Before I started Project L/EARN I was more interested in working with people on a one-on-one basis, not so much having a community focus which is what I’m interested in now. So now I’m more interested in how treatment programs can be made more effective and have a broader reach. In terms of whether or not Project L/EARN affected my decisions about grad school, I was always interested in studying psychology, but now I’ve giving thought to doing a psychology/PhD track.

HCB: What inspired you to apply for Project L/Earn internship?

Calixte-Civil: I was inspired to apply to Project L/EARN because I have had previous research experience, but unfortunately I didn’t have much time to cultivate that relationship. And I knew that in grad school a mentoring relationship is really important. So I wanted to have a stepping stone for that future relationship. And I also wanted some experience in health research because my previous research was in something else. As a psychology major it’s really important for me to get that experience.

HCB: Are there any insights about your Project L/EARN experience you’d like to share?

Calixte-Civil: Collaborating with your peers is so important because they’re a tremendous resource in terms of not just emotional support but also [in answering questions like]: Do you think I should run this regression or this regression? At the end of the day, regardless of what you’re doing, you can go to them for help.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.