Project L/EARN: A Progress Report

Dates of Project: October 1, 2008 to May 31, 2014

Field of Work: Enlarging the pipeline of health researchers from underrepresented groups.

Problem Synopsis: Undergraduate students from groups underrepresented in research may know little about career opportunities in health research. Preparing a pool of such students for graduate study to become health researchers creates new professional opportunities for them while infusing the field with a diversity of perspectives.

Synopsis of the Work: Project L/EARN had a track record of developing young researchers and supporting them in applying to graduate school before RWJF began its funding. Under the RWJF grant, Project L/EARN continues its basic model of building research capacity among undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. It is actively recruiting nursing students; conducting a social network analysis of the networks of relationships that form between interns, alumni, and faculty; and educating staff at other universities interested in establishing similar programs.

Key Findings/Results

  • During the RWJF grant period Project L/EARN staff reports that:

    • Ten interns—one out of every eight applicants—have been selected for the summer program every year.
    • In the fall of 2012, 12 alumni will be starting some sort of graduate program. Others have taken jobs in research or clinical work after receiving their baccalaureate degree, and plan to apply to graduate school in the future.
    • One to three positions each year are designated for nursing or pre-nursing students. While these interns have been very successful, it has been difficult to attract enough of them to the program, possibly because of scheduling difficulties.
    • The social network analysis has identified the broad range of advising that interns and former interns receive; the mentoring relationship with the Project L/EARN mentor appears stronger than those of other faculty.