Research has demonstrated that science benefits from diversity, but graduate programs still suffer from a lack of diversity, including in terms of race/ethnicity and the type of undergraduate institutions of applicants. Meanwhile, minority-serving institutions are full of students who are talented and passionate about science. Faculty members at these institutions are dedicated to their students and work to connect them with opportunities. But, at the same time, those faculty members are often overextended (unfortunately, minority serving institutions tend to be underresourced) and simply do not have the time to mentor all of their promising students through the process of applying to graduate schools and fellowship programs, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. Moreover, most of these institutions primarily serve undergraduates and there is little access to graduate students and postdocs who can serve as mentors and role models.
In other words: graduate programs are looking to recruit more minority scholars, fellowship programs are looking for bright applicants, and minority serving institutions are full of students who are ready to excel in graduate school and research. But, right now, many of those students from minority-serving institutions don’t apply to graduate programs or for graduate research fellowships.
Therefore, we* have created EEB Mentor Match, with the goal of matching undergraduate students from minority-serving institutions (MSIs) who are interested in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) with mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications. We are looking for:
- undergraduate students who are considering applying to graduate schools in ecology and evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology, natural resources, etc.) and/or to the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and/or to the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship;
- masters students who are planning to apply to PhD programs in ecology and evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology, natural resources, etc.) and/or to the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program and/or to the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship;
- graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and others with experience with the graduate school application process and/or NSF’s GRFP and/or Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships who are interested in working an undergraduate student from a minority serving institution as they craft their application materials; and
- mentors of students at MSIs who can nominate students who are considering applying to graduate school in EEB and/or for fellowships. We will then contact these students to see if they are interested in being mentored and, if so, pair them with a mentor.
Note that this is focused on students who are interested in ecology & evolutionary biology (defined broadly, including programs in conservation biology and natural resources). Our hope is that, by keeping this more focused, we will be able to do a better job of matching mentors and mentees. (Also, there are only so many hours in the day, unfortunately.) We encourage people in other research areas to develop similar resources for their fields!
For potential applicants and their mentors
- If you are a current undergraduate student at a minority serving institution or a graduate of a MSI (either currently in a masters program or not currently in school) who is interested in ecology and evolutionary biology and who is planning on applying to graduate school this year, this is for you! Please fill out this form.
- If you are a faculty member at a minority serving institution (or are in some other capacity the mentor of a student at a MSI who is considering applying to graduate school or for fellowships), please fill out the form to suggest a student! There is a field where you can indicate that you are filling it out form on behalf of someone else. For all the fields after the first two, imagine it says “Your student” any place it says “you” or “your”. We will contact the student to let them know that someone thinks they would be great for this program, and to see if they are interested in participating.
- If you aren’t sure whether your school is a minority serving institution, but you suspect it is, go ahead and fill out the form There’s a place to enter your school’s name; we’ll figure it out.
- If you are a student who is not at a minority serving institution but who is from an underrepresented group and who plans on applying to grad schools and/or for fellowships, go ahead and fill out the form and we’ll do our best to find you a mentor, too.
More for the students/applicants
- Meghan wrote a blog post on applying to graduate programs. The later parts focus on things you can do at the application stage to improve your chances of being invited for an interview.
- If you think you aren’t good enough to apply to graduate programs or for fellowships: read up on imposter syndrome! It’s a real thing and it’s really common. A lot of people use the “fake it until you make it” approach. (Even people who seem really confident to you might be feeling like an imposter, too. Your professors who seem super confident? Lots of them feel like imposters, too.)
- The National Science Foundation recently changed the rules for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. It used to be that students could apply as undergraduates, as first year graduate students, and as second year graduate students. Now, they can apply as undergraduates and then either in their first or second year of graduate school. In other words: it’s more important now to apply before starting grad school, as you only get one chance after that! The reason they made this change is because they want to increase the diversity of fellowship recipients, and they’re hoping that you will apply! An important thing to know is that you do not need to know where you will go to graduate school to submit a fellowship application. They are mainly looking to see how you think and what research ideas you have – you are NOT committing to a particular lab or project when you apply.
For people who are interested in serving as mentors
- We are looking for people who have experience with applying to graduate schools and/or with experience applying for fellowships (this includes you, current graduate students!)
- You do not need to have experience serving on a graduate admissions committee or a fellowship review committee, but if you have this experience, please indicate it in your application!
- An important thing for mentors to keep in mind as they work with mentees is that National Science Foundation funds basic scientific research. This means that NSF is not interested in a project that has, say, curing cancer as its primary aim. (Broader impacts that relate to potential human impacts are great. But the central idea proposed has to be basic research.)
- Please keep in mind that imposter syndrome is real and that your mentee may be really unsure about whether they are “good enough” to go to graduate school or to be considered for a prestigious fellowship. Make sure you give your mentee plenty of encouragement, and make sure all criticism is worded constructively.
- If you’re interested in being a mentor, this is the form you should fill out!
- The deadline for applying for the NSF GRFP is October 23, 2017 (for those in the Life Sciences).
- The deadline for applying for the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship is December 14, 2017.
- Grad school application deadlines tend to be in December and January.
- Because of that timeline, we strongly encourage mentees and mentors to sign up by September 15th, to leave time for matching (hopefully by October 1st) and to work on applications. If it’s after September 15th and you’re interested, go ahead and sign up and we’ll try to make a match.
- We are not affiliated with the National Science Foundation. We just think it would be great if more students from MSIs applied to graduate schools and to NSF’s GRFP. We’ve complained about this in the past, and we’re putting our money (or, more accurately, time) where our mouths are.
- We hope to get lots of volunteers who are willing to serve as mentors, but this will likely mean that we won’t personally know all the mentors who are involved. Students: if you are not comfortable with the interactions you are having with your mentor, please let us know right away. Our email addresses: Meghan Duffy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Terry McGlynn (email@example.com)
- Keep in mind that the mentors are volunteering their time.
Terry has also written a post on this, giving more of the motivation behind EEB Mentor Match! His gives his perspective as a MSI faculty member on why this program is needed.
The idea for EEB Mentor Match came out of conversations during the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute training, and especially from a conversation with Emily Cloyd, Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova, and Luis Martinez.
Updates: This post was updated on Thursday, August 24th to make it clear that people who are not currently students and people who are currently masters students are welcome to apply, too!