Project L/EARN: Graduates Reflect

Sep 11, 2012, 8:00 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.


Alison Hernandez
Hometown: North Bergen, NJ
Rising senior at Rutgers University
Major: Pharmacy
Internship Research Project: The Influence of Patient Health Perceptions on Engagement in End-of-Life Discussions

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

Alison Hernandez: Before Project L/EARN I did not have appreciation for research the way I do today. As a prospective clinician, I think it’s important that clinicians know about research and improving health outcomes through programs and initiatives. And if clinicians don’t know about this research that’s going on, nothing’s going to change. So it’s important that I take these lessons I’ve learned at Project L/Earn and bring it to my fellow classmates.

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

Hernandez: Before I found the application for Project L/EARN I was looking to do something with my summer to improve and be productive – everyone wants to use their time wisely to prepare for school. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my summer, but I did want to improve my resume. I go to my campus mailbox, and like a gift I see the application to L/EARN. I read the description and thought, wow I’m a pharmacy student and this is talking about getting involved with the health care field. It was different so it didn’t feel like it was something I was expected to do, and it was a refreshingly different opportunity, which is what attracted me to applying to this program.

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

Hernandez: As a pharmacy student, all of my classes are with pharmacy students, and we really don’t get to experience or see what other individuals can bring to your perspective on health care. And through Project L/EARN I’ve met some amazing, talented, hardworking people who really do care about different aspects of health care that I’ve never been introduced to. It makes me appreciate all of the different perspectives people have and the relationships I’ve been able to build here.


Melanie Ward
Hometown: Southfield, MI
Rising senior at the University of Michigan
Major: Sociology
Internship Research Project: Weight Reduction Advice from Health Providers: A Study of Adult Patient and Provider Factors

Human Capital Blog: What inspired you to apply for the Project L/EARN internship?

Melanie Ward: I was inspired to apply to the Project L/EARN internship because I wanted the opportunity to conduct an independent full-fledged project in health policy, as I plan to apply for a PhD in health policy.

HCB: What aspect of Project L/EARN internship has been most helpful and why?

Ward: The statistics instruction, and that’s because I know statistics is a central component of the graduate school curriculum. And I’m certain I want to go to grad school, so learning statistics now will give me an advantage when I’m applying to grad school.

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

Ward: Students should come to Project L/EARN with an open mind about the research questions that interest them and the potential career paths they could pursue. And also, come prepared to work, but ready to build your skill set as well.

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