Science Influencers: Communicating FANH Sciences’ Research, Education, and Extension through Practical Experiences
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The Science Influencers program integrates research, education, and extension experiences for undergraduates in STEM and FANH-related fields to become effective, influential communicators of science in the public domain. The program, driven by a need to repair the leaky pipeline in science communications, has four objectives: 1) Create a year-long program to increase undergraduates’ applied knowledge and competencies to communicate about STEM- and FANH-related issues; 2) Form an REE advisory board to serve as mentors, role models, and advocates for undergraduates; 3) Instill students with effective and influential communications skills through planned experiential activities; and 4) Develop a Science Influencers program model to influence positively public opinion of STEM and FANH sciences issues and shape national conversations about science. The program features cross-disciplinary mentors from multiple Texas A&M University System partners (e.g., Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M University Kingsville, Tarleton State University, West Texas A&M University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension). Thirty students will participate in the five-year program; 15 will be from underrepresented groups. Participants will gain invaluable knowledge, skills, and abilities through a science communications course, professional development workshops, interactions with STEM and social/behavioral science mentors, ongoing technical and leadership skills activities; summer internships; a public research symposium; and one elective outreach experience. Program impacts include students who become Science Influencers, who influence positively public opinion of STEM and the FANH sciences, and who initiate fact-based dialogue about scientific issues to help counter a rural America image misperception.