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Mentoring Program Targets Undergraduate Students, Creates Next Generation of Nursing Research Leaders
Leaders in the School of Nursing saw firsthand that underrepresented minority students, who are often first-generation college scholars, face hurdles unknown to other students.
Darpan Patel, Ph.D., assistant professor/research, said the nursing school knew it needed to help guide these students toward successfully completing their undergraduate degrees and then enrolling in graduate school.
Because of its designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the School of Nursing successfully applied for a five-year, $2.5 million Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand its Student Success Center. The grant allowed the school to create a Summer Undergraduate Nursing Research Immersion Experience, which is known as SUNRISE.
SUNRISE provides opportunities for traditional-track undergraduate nursing students in their fifth semester to participate in two, eight-week summer research sessions mentored by faculty members from the School of Nursing. Selection for the program is done through a competitive application and interview process.
“This program creates a mentor-mentee relationship between our faculty members and students,” he said. “They are with their mentors in a structured program for two consecutive summers. The students participate in weekly activities as a group, but the majority of their time is spent in the mentor’s research group.”
Students in the SUNRISE program are expected to make meaningful contributions to science with national presentations and inclusion in peer-reviewed publications.
“These undergraduate students are charged with conducting original research and collecting data that will be shared with their peers and experts around the country,” Dr. Patel said.
Funding from the federal grant covers the students’ travel and conference costs so they can make presentations on their research.
Dr. Patel and David Byrd, Ph.D., associate dean for admissions and student services, traveled last summer with the first four SUNRISE students to the University of California, San Francisco, to show them graduate school opportunities outside of Texas.
“Our SUNRISE students had the opportunity to visit the top National Institute of Health funded nursing school in the United States,” he said.
They also were introduced to Victoria Flores, M.S.N., B.S.N., RN, who is a Ph.D. student there. Flores completed her undergraduate nursing education at the School of Nursing.
“Victoria told them that no matter their personal history or upbringing, hard work perseveres and that by working hard they can succeed like she has,” Dr. Patel said. “We want to plant the seed to show them they are capable of attaining things they previously didn’t think were attainable.”
By offering the SUNRISE program, the nursing school is hoping these students will continue on to receive their master’s and doctoral degrees.
“We are creating the foundation for future nurse researchers,” he said.