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Native American Summer Mentorship Program Goes Virtual For Summer 2020

Harriet Cornachione

USU’s Native American Summer Mentorship Program (NASMP) has been fostering this underserved group, working to improve cross-cultural communication and diversity in STEM since 2014. This year the program is virtual

“I think the success of this year's program in some ways looks really similar to past years programs and in other ways it is really different.”

Elizabeth Simpson, lead graduate student facilitator for Utah State University’s Native American Summer Mentorship Program said typically, the program hosts 25-30 students for a four-week residential program in Logan, with a week of on-campus orientation to USU’s student resources then three weeks to experience hands-on research in different labs.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program was forced to go virtual this year. She said faculty and grad students, many returners from previous years, got creative with online experiences and trainings for this year to keep participants engaged. One geoscience program even sent sampling kits to students to do research in their own backyards for a citizen science project.

Simpson said despite the technological challenges, students appreciated the program still running this year.

“Just talking with some of the students during the facilitator class this morning, there were a few of them who are saying that they've had a chance to get their family members and people they live with involved either listening in to research presentations, or, you know, going out and using some of the tools they've learned working in their lab to explore the spaces around them,” said Simpson. “So I think that's a really unique aspect of this year's program and the students doing these remote research experiences from their homes.”

Simpson noted it’s important for the program to continue not just for the love of science and math the research can foster, but the relationships built in the program, as well, because ultimately it is these relationships that foster student success.

Editor's Note: The original text of this story incorrectly named the summer mentorship program. This has since been corrected. Additioally, Elizabeth Simpson's name was incorrect in the audio version and an earlier web version of this story. It has since been corrected online.