The University of New Mexico hosted its fifth annual Summer Community College Opportunity for Research Experience (SCCORE) this summer.
According to the SCCORE website, the program is part of the Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP), which aims to increase the success of minority students pursuing STEM degrees.
The program works by allowing students who are currently attending community colleges across the state to participate in a four-week long summer research project at the university they intend to transfer to.
In addition to participating in research, the program allows the students to attend orientation sessions that help them get to know the campus, as well as professional development workshops. This summer, five students had the opportunity to participate in the SCCORE program at UNM.
Laura Crossey, AMP institutional coordinator, said UNM mainly receives students from Central New Mexico Community College, but accepts applicants from community colleges across the state.
“Anyone who is planning to transfer to UNM has their name sent to me and we try to match them up with experiences the summer before they transfer,” Crossey said. “In a lot of cases, this is the student's first research experience at the university level.”
In addition to getting research experience, Crossey said that hosting the SCCORE program during the summer helps students prepare for their transition from a community college to a university.
“What this does is it brings students to our campus during the summer when the time is a little more laid back,” she said. “They obviously aren't having to go to class; they are working with a research team and they get familiar with our campus.”
The SCCORE program is funded through a grant from National Science Foundation (NSF). This summer marks the end of a five-year funding cycle, but Crossey said UNM is currently in the process of getting more funding for another cycle.
“(UNM is) in our phase now where we’ve reapplied for another five years of funding,” she said. “We are hopeful that we will be able to continue it after this summer. It’s just a really successful model.”
Holly Olivarez participated in the SCCORE program at UNM during the summer of 2017. She is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in earth and planetary sciences, but initially started out as a math major at CNM. She said participating in SCCORE changed her course of study.
“My original plan was to pursue statistics, but my experience with SCCORE got me so interested in the research that I changed my major,” she said. “Based on my application to the SCCORE program, Professor Laura Crossey paired me with a geochemist/geochronologist, Professor Yemane Asmerom, who has become a true mentor.”
Olivarez went on to get a job at UNM’s Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory where she is continuing her research with Asmerom. She said thanks to the experience she gained from the SCCORE program, she was able to land an internship in Colorado this summer.
“This summer I am in Boulder, Colorado, performing atmospheric research as part of a ten-week research internship called Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research Sciences (SOARS) offered by the University Corporation of Atmospheric Sciences,” she said. “Thanks to being in the SCCORE program, my research experienced really looked good on my application to SOARS.”
In addition to gaining research experience, Olivarez said the SCCORE program generally made her transfer to UNM easier.
“Another great aspect of the SCCORE program is building a network of students on campus during the summer before transferring to UNM,” she said. “I was very nervous about transferring to UNM, but having built up friendships beforehand made a big difference.”
When asked what advice she had for potential SCCORE applicants, Olivarez said she encourages students to take advantage of the program.
“Apply,” she said. “I was a math major at CNM, and I had no idea what doing scientific research meant.”
“I was nervous, but so was everyone else who applied. The SCCORE director at UNM genuinely cares about helping us succeed at UNM, no matter what our majors are.”
Mikhaela Smith is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MikhaelaSmith18.