Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Sep 5, 2012, 9:00 AM

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.


Stephanie Jimenez
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ
Rising junior at Rutgers University
Major: Sociology
Internship Research Project: Breast Cancer Survivors’ Perceptions of Quality Cancer-Related Care from Primary Care Providers

Human Capital Blog: What aspect of the Project L/EARN internship has been most helpful and why?

Stephanie Jimenez: The most helpful part of my Project L/EARN experience this summer was the guidance that I received from my mentor as well as the things I learned from my instructional staff. The feedback I gained from my presentation helped me gain perspective.

HCB: Would you recommend Project L/EARN to others and why?

Jimenez: I would recommend Project L/EARN to others because it challenges you to get out of your comfort zone and master something that you fear. For example, I had a fear [of] public speaking but with the help of the program, I was able to present on a topic I had learned in two months in front of a group of highly educated people who have advanced degrees.

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

Jimenez: The experience of being in a cohort and how important it was to me to be able to establish a bond with my roommates knowing that we were going into a situation at the same time. And at the end of the program actually looking at each other and saying we did it.


Walter Fortson
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Rising senior at Rutgers University
Major: Exercise Physiology
Internship Research Project: Exploring the Association between Positive Affect and Exercise in Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa

Human Capital Blog: What’s the most surprising thing you learned during internship?

Walter Fortson: The most surprising thing I learned in my Project L/EARN internship is that I had to produce a 30+ paper in ten weeks, coming from not knowing anything about statistics or my project. At first that was a little scary, but once I realized the amount of support from instructors and working one-on-one with my mentor and having structured time throughout the weeks to work on different parts of the paper, it being broken up made it seem more manageable and conquerable.

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

Fortson: Project L/EARN has supported my educational and professional goals by exposing me to the rigor that would be expected of me in academic research. And especially my career path – I want to be a professor and Project L/EARN has definitely showed me the work that would go into doing that.

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

Fortson: Something about my Project L/EARN experience that specifically stands out is, outside of all the resources you get, the ability to connect with my cohort and people going through the same struggle as me.  Another aspect of this program, which people don’t really talk about, is that you work really, really hard throughout the summer with people who are working just as hard, and you build some friendships I think have the potential to be lifelong. It’s one of the added bonuses of the experience.

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