Committee Supports Students and New Faculty from Underrepresented Minority Groups

The Committee on Minority Education reaffirmed its commitment to the Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the ASM Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Travel Award Program for the ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) during a recent planning retreat 31 November– 1 December at ASM Headquarters. The Committee developed a three-year strategic plan and reaffirmed its charge to promote access, excellence, professional development and advancement of underrepresented minorities at all levels in the microbiological sciences, to enhance the community of underrepresented microbiology educators and professionals, and to promote educational leadership in the profession and at ASM.
 Sanchez Lanier
“Our goal for the next three years is to ensure that the fellowship programs have adequate resources to support students,” says Mary Sanchez Lanier, associate dean of the College of Science and professor of microbiology at Washington State University in Pullman. “Each year we have many more applicants than we have slots so any opportunity to leverage funds or seek additional support is important.” During the retreat, the Committee identified four strategic goals: (i) enhance the educational preparation and professional development of students from underrepresented groups, (ii) promote faculty professional development in the microbiological sciences, (iii) educate and lead the membership about the importance of a diverse workforce, and (iv) assess, enhance, and sustain programs.

This new outlook prompted a number of new ideas and some changes over the next three years. The first major change will be refocusing the MURF program and targeting students from underrepresented groups who pursue degrees at nondoctoral degree-granting institutions. The Committee will sponsor the modified MURF Program in 2009. The second major change will be revamping the ASMCUE Faculty Enhancement Travel Grants and targeting early-career faculty from minority-serving institutions or early-career faculty from underrepresented minority groups to attend the annual conference. The annual conference addresses teaching and student assessment strategies and provides a supportive community of undergraduate teaching mentors.

Another change proposed for the future will be an Honorable Mention category for the ASM Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship. Graduate students who are deemed competitive for this fellowship but for which there are no funds to support them will receive an Honorable Mention Award. Honorable Mention will afford graduate students additional opportunities, resources, and mentoring in the microbiological sciences. For instance, Honorable Mention Awardees will receive support to participate in one of the ASM Kadner Institutes during their training as long as they are competitive for the Institute.

One new program for 2008 is the ASM Presentation Institute for Graduate Students (
Microbe, November 2007, p. 563) planned for 30 May–1 June in Boston, Mass. “The goal of this one-and-a-half day institute is to develop the skills needed to make a successful presentation at a scientific meeting and to interact in a professional manner with colleagues,” says Sanchez- Lanier. “Applications are required, and the deadline is March 1. Only graduate students who are members of the Society are eligible to apply. Check for more information.” For more information about the Committee’s plan, contact EducationResources