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GSAS Undergraduate Summer Interns Gain Exposure to Doctoral Study

By Lydia Gardner

(left to right) Intern Hecktor Clark with summer mentors Joel Butterwick, a Ph.D. candidate and Prof. Hannes Beulow

Since 1989, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Summer Research Program for Students from Historically Underrepresented Groups has supported, encouraged and exposed minority undergraduates to doctoral study. Again this year, the GSAS program partnered with the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP) and the Trinitas Foundation to support these interns.

Fourteen undergraduates from 12 schools are participating in the eight-week program. Recently, at a reception hosted by the GSAS Office of Minority Affairs, the interns were welcomed by GSAS Dean Henry C. Pinkham and addressed by faculty mentor Marcellus Blount of the English Department.

Pinkham spoke of the Columbia faculty and administrators' support for the Summer Research/SR-EIP. "We all realize that it is crucially important that underrepresented minorities teach at universities across the United States and serve as role models in faculty positions."

"The whole point of this program is to introduce undergraduate students to research early," he continued. "I think the people who are successful in graduate school are successful because they have a passion for research. The way to develop such a passion is to be introduced to research and scholarship early in the academic career. I want to say thank you to all of the mentors -- I think it is especially wonderful that we have faculty at this University who essentially donate their time during the summer to this program.

"To the students, we want all of you to go to graduate school and use the summer to develop a passion for research and scholarship. Not so secretly, we hope that you will enjoy your time on this campus and when you are ready to go to graduate school you will think that coming to Columbia is not such a bad idea," Pinkham concluded.

Keynote speaker Marcellus Blount (right) with English Department Intern Erica Bryant

Minority Affairs Director Sharon Gamble introduced the keynote speaker, Marcellus Blount, professor of English, whom she thanked for being such an important and consistently helpful part of the internship program over the years.

Blount spoke of the long-range importance of programs like the Summer Research/SR-EIP as well as the far-reaching value of the Ph.D. and faculty positions.

"The Ph.D. is the entree into the Academy," he said. You may not have thought seriously about the rewards that come with it, and I mean rewards that go beyond simple financial remuneration."

He counseled, "The Ph.D. allows you to pursue an occupation that not only gives you the opportunity to do your own research and to play a valuable leadership role within the context of major academic institutions but also to help define the shape of American policy within the world community. It gives you a platform from which to speak about important cultural and technological policies. It also gives you the opportunity to do what the faculty here today are doing -- working with students such as yourselves, developing professional and personal relationships, which I can say from my 17 years of full-time teaching, is very rewarding."

Blount advised students, "Statistics show that having access to minority scholars as mentors, counselors and role models improves the success rates of minority M.A. and Ph.D. candidates. In this program you'll get a sense of what it is like to do scholarly research; you'll get a sense of what the mentoring process is like, and you'll have access to the wonderful resources of this institution and of New York City. We want you to think seriously about choosing a career in the Academy and about choosing Columbia University to prepare you for that career."

Columbia professors acting as summer mentors include: Amanda Claybaugh, Monica Miller and Quandra Prettyman, English; Aaron Mitchell, Christian Schindler and Howard Shuman, microbiology; Michele Miozzo and Geraldine Downey, psychology; Art Palmer and Oliver Hobert, biochemistry and molecular biophysics; Justin Starren, medical informatics; Jan Kitajewski, pathology; Ellen Baker, history, and Virginia Cornish, chemistry.

GSAS Dean Henry Pinkham (right) and Minority Affairs Director Sharon Gamble

The 2002 GSAS, Minority Affairs, Leadership Alliance Summer Research/SR-EIP participants include: Hikma Abdulghani and Adrienne Sockwell, Columbia School of General Studies; Nina Candia, Barnard College; Erica Bryant, Boston University; Hecktor Clarke, St. Francis College; Tennille Danels, University of Maryland at Baltimore County; Jennifer DeJesus, SUNY Binghamton; Juan Guzman, University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras; Hasina Outtz, Princeton University; Monica Robles, Mount St. Mary's College; Eric Salazar, St. Mary's University; Amber Siler-Knogl, Barry University; Evita Sprowl, Claflin University, and Jamie Wilson-Chiru, UCLA.

Published: Jun 26, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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