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Portland State University Partners with NMC, other institutions to help underrepresented students pursue careers in biomedicine and other sciences (October 23, 2014)

Portland State University (PSU) will receive a $24 million research and training grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to work with the Northern Marianas College and other institutions to help underrepresented and diverse students pursue careers in biomedical, behavioral, social, or clinical research and other health sciences.

The funding will support students of Pacific Islander, Hispanic, African American, American Indian, and Alaskan Native heritage as well as students with disabilities, histories of foster care or economic disadvantage.

Wim Wiewel, president of PSU, said, “Never before has there been such a robust program to create opportunities for underrepresented students to pursue degrees in health sciences.”

“We are excited to be working with Portland State University to enhance diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social science workforce,” said Northern Marianas College President Dr. Sharon Hart. “This collaboration also underscores NMC’s growing strategic partnerships aimed at building workforce capacity.”

The money will fund PSU’s new Enhancing Cross-disciplinary Infrastructure Training at Oregon (EXITO) program. Students from the Northern Marianas College and other institutions who are accepted to the program will receive scholarships, stipends, mentoring, summer seminars, paid job experience, and dedicated academic and financial aid advising—essentially, everything a student would need to be successful.

Carlos Crespo, project director, is excited about this innovative model to train the next generation from underrepresented backgrounds. “This program provides wrap-around support throughout the year,” said Crespo. “By working with our partners, it creates a pathway for success whether they start at PSU or transfer in.”

PSU is collaborating with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Portland Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Clackamas Community College, Clark College, University of Alaska, University of Hawaii, University of Guam, American Samoa Community College and Northern Marianas College.

“This project will open doors to additional student scholarships, provide paid internship experiences for our student to work with professors and scientists from PSU, increase opportunities for our learners to transfer into other colleges, better prepare those interested in seeking STEM related degrees, and provide training for NMC mentors,” said Charlotte Cepeda, Director of NMC’s School of Education.

The PSU grant is part of a larger $240 million investment by the NIH to develop new approaches that engage researchers, including those from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical sciences, and prepare them to thrive in the NIH-funded workforce. PSU is one of 10 primary institutions selected through this initiative, which ultimately supports 50 institutions through partnerships. The awardees will establish a national consortium to develop, implement, and evaluate approaches to encourage students to pursue biomedical research careers.

“In addition to the hard work and creativity of our lead investigators, PSU's ability to win this major award was enhanced by our extensive collaborations with OHSU, and by recent investments in our research infrastructure,” said Jon Fink, VP of Research and Strategic Partnerships. “As has been shown repeatedly around the country, a single large grant like this has the power to transform universities. We look forward to building on this terrific accomplishment.”

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