The Multilevel ResearchIntensive Community Creates Equity and Provides an Alternative to Standard Diversity Pipelines Academic Article uri icon


  • Inducting lowerdivision undergraduates into a community of practicing scholars is impeded by boundaries that segregate roles, responsibilities and identities at each academic level. Faculty at universities with large undergraduate populations have difficulty mentoring a significant fraction of undergraduates with standard 1on1 research apprenticeship. Research opportunities are thus conserved for students with the most apparent merit. With scarcity of opportunities, faculty do not have to advertise opportunities widely, disparately impacting recruitment of underrepresented students with limited social capital. Furthermore, underrepresented students are less likely to seek research experiences in later years if they lacked transformative experiences when career decisions are typically made in the first two years. Faculty filter applicants by establishing easily quantifiable criteria such as completion of advanced coursework, availability, and initial GPA. Use of these poor metrics of research potential have disparate impact on selection of students that have had insufficient preparation in high school, difficulty securing accommodations for disabilities, or need to work to pay for college. Criteria such as GPA and intention to pursue graduate study are perverse criteria because both increase significantly with research experiences. Inability to make informed selections can exacerbate implicit bias, especially in the absence of a track record of success. When working in isolation, students lacking specific knowledge or skills require remediation, which then diminishes retention in the lab in subsequent semesters. Disparate impacts on recruitment, selection, and retention are not manifestations of an unmet need to remediate deficits, but an unmet need for a research education model that removes barriers to participation. The Aggie Research Program (ARP) at Texas A&M is a researchintensive community, based on asset models and leadership. Instead of 1on1 research apprenticeship, research is performed by a diverse undergraduate research team led by a graduate student or postdoctoral scholar preparing for the next stage of a research career. Research teams are productive because they further the team leaders research by leveraging each undergraduates unique assets (talents, skills, perspectives, and experiences). Designed to remove institutional, economic, and cultural barriers to participation of underrepresented students, this model targets within universalism to achieve equity. First, research teams incur minimal risk to productivity if a potential recruit lacks a particular skill. With legitimate peripheral participation, neophytes without a track record can exhibit a growth trajectory. Over the course of multiple semesters, experienced team members become peer mentors to new team members. Team leaders meet in periodically to explore common interests in research leadership. The result will be an organic transition of an underrepresented undergraduate, who has not yet committed to a research career, to a potential faculty member, who creates diverse research education programs.

published proceedings

  • The FASEB Journal

author list (cited authors)

  • Cisneros, M., McNeely, A., Gatson, S., & Quick, C. M.

citation count

  • 0

publication date

  • May 2022