The story to air this month highlights MIND Alliance, a program that brings together the expertise and resources of two minority-serving universities: Hunter College, City University of New York in New York City and Southern University at Baton Rouge, LA. According to MIND Alliance Principle Investigator Dr. Elizabeth Cardoso, the program is designed to increase interest in the sciences among minority students with disabilities, and to get them into science-based academic programs and careers. While Access to Advancement has focused on the experiences of the young women in the program, MIND Alliance assists both male and female high school and college students from New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana. The program emphasizes cultural sensitivity, while offering tutoring, mentoring, internships, and career assessment and counseling.
The students in the program are from inner-city communities and many have not had the support they need to reach their academic potential. For this reason, the importance of self-advocacy is impressed upon the students throughout the program. MIND Alliance college-level participant Fei-Yan Mock, nicknamed, "Pepsi," explains why this message is important to her. Pepsi has polio and uses a wheelchair. She says accessibility in science labs poses some problems. For example, she had difficulty in her college's lab simply reaching chemicals or turning on the water faucet and she welcomes assistance from the helpful lab staff.
Jennifer, a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at Columbia University and a presenter at a MIND Alliance Summer Institute, also had to advocate for herself when faced with challenges in the lab environment. Jennifer, who is profiled for the Access to Advancement series in a story that aired on WAMC's 51% program in December, has a rare form of epilepsy requiring her to avoid fluorescent lighting. With support from the University's Office of Disability Services, Jennifer's adviser replaced the fluorescent lighting in the lab with halogen lighting. Her adviser also allows her to set her own schedule. Jennifer once struggled to stay in school, but these minor accommodations have helped her to excel.
Susan Barnett, one of three series producers, says of Jennifer and the other women profiled in the series, "These women prove that with determination and drive, any career is within reach, and the field of science will be far richer for their contributions."
In Jennifer's presentation to MIND Alliance participants, she tells the students not to be afraid to ask for accommodations and she advised, "Don't let your challenges hold you back. Live smartly. Know your limitations, but live to the fullest within your limitations."
Tune in to The Best of Our Knowledge on January 11th at 8:00pm to learn more about the MIND Alliance program. Access to Advancement will air monthly on The Best of Our Knowledge and 51%. Please visit www.wamc.org for a full broadcast schedule. The series is also available for listening online at www.womeninscience.org. You can join the Access to Advancement discussion on Facebook by going to www.facebook.com and searching for "Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics ON THE AIR!" Or follow the series on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AccesstoAdvance.
Access to Advancement is made possible by support from the National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education program under grant number HRD-0833247. For more information, please call (800) 323-9262, ext. 169 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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