PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As an undergraduate at Morehouse College in the early ’90s, Jason Sello had aspirations to study virology with a well-known researcher at Harvard Medical School. It might have remained a dream shelved for later years had he not encountered an organization called Leadership Alliance. He applied for the Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program, and was not only provided housing for the summer while he worked with his mentor in the lab, he was also given GRE and graduate school application preparation and information on various science careers.
Sello, who later earned a Ph.D. in biophysics at Harvard and is now a associate professor of chemistry at Brown, credits that experience with helping to shape his path in life. “Looking back, I know that having the opportunity to do research as an undergrad made all of the difference in my career. I certainly wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that research.”
Sello is so grateful for the doors Leadership Alliance helped open, that he is now giving other students the same experience. This summer, and in 2008, he hosted two Morehouse students to work in his lab through Leadership Alliance programs. Sello says that bringing his Leadership Alliance connection full circle is a way to give back and that seeing the success of the program encouraged him to stay involved.
“When I see the Morehouse students, they do make me think of myself at that stage and how young and impressionable I was and also think back to how much of a difference the professors that I worked with made and how important they were to my career decisions,” Sello says. “Getting a Ph.D. is tough and the road can be especially tough for students of color. Leadership Alliance, at least from my standpoint, gives students the opportunities to do research that is going to make them competitive for admission to graduate programs and ultimately be successful in graduate programs. It also gives students a peer network that they can lean on and depend on as they’re going forward. Leadership Alliance is extremely important in terms of work that they have done and the work they’re continuing to do.”
This year, Leadership Alliance celebrates 20 years of success stories just like Sello’s. The organization will mark the occasion at a national symposium July 27-29, 2012, at the Hartford Marriott Downtown in Hartford, Conn. The symposium is expected to attract dozens of minority scholars from across the academic spectrum — undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral research associates, and tenure-track faculty — for a weekend of research presentations, networking, and panels on professional development.
Keynote speakers at the symposium will be Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health, and Shirley Malcolm, head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The symposium is the culmination of the Alliance’s national summer research program, the Summer Research Early Identification Program, with close to 600 attendees participating in the 20th anniversary celebration. Recently, U.S. Rep. James Langevin and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline each made floor statements congratulating the Alliance on this milestone and entering the congratulations into into the Congressional Record.
“The 20th anniversary is a significant milestone in the history of the Alliance that represents a sustained commitment to developing and training the nation’s 21st-century researchers and scholars, reflecting the true demographic composition of our diverse and vibrant society,” said Medeva Ghee, executive director of the Leadership Alliance.
The symposium in Hartford will feature undergraduate research presentations in a wide range of academic disciplines. Discussion sessions for undergraduates will share information about the graduate school experience and admissions process. Graduate student sessions will share tips on how to complete dissertations and find postdoctoral research positions. Postdocs will get the inside track on tenure-track faculty jobs.
Since its inception, the Leadership Alliance has produced 215 Ph.D.s and 19 M.D./Ph.D.s. The organization celebrated its first 100 Ph.D.s at its symposium in 2008 and will honor this subsequent cohort of 100 doctoral scholars at this year’s event.
The Alliance is an entrepreneurial association of more than 30 colleges and universities nationwide. These institutions, a unique and highly productive collaboration of elite research universities and minority-serving institutions, invest their financial resources, faculty talents, and commitment for the common purpose of improving the prospects of minority scholar participation in the ranks of tomorrow’s faculty. The Alliance attracts, recruits, and nurtures minority students who, with consortium support, are encouraged to pursue their educational aspirations through graduate study. Alliance programs and faculty serve to complement the undergraduate education of these rising scholars.
Since its inception in 1992, the Alliance has supported undergraduates who have gone on to obtain advanced degrees at twice the national average. The Alliance has produced a larger percentage of Ph.D.s from among its participating students than any other similar program in the country and has produced significant numbers of advanced scholars to populate leadership positions in all career sectors. The number of Alliance students who are in the pipeline headed to become tomorrow’s Ph.D.s is increasing.
“Leadership Alliance alumni are successfully competing for leadership positions in academia, the public and private sectors. The Alliance continues to benefit from the presence of its doctoral scholars in faculty ranks at member institutions. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of this highly qualified talent pool has been recruited into faculty positions at Alliance member institutions, fulfilling their career goals and inspiring the academic aspirations of emerging underrepresented minority students in their classrooms and programs,” Ghee said.
The Leadership Alliance is a consortium of 32 leading research and teaching academic institutions, including Brooklyn College, Brown University, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Claflin University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Dillard University, Harvard University, Howard University, Hunter College, Johns Hopkins University, Montana State University-Bozeman, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, New York University, Princeton University, Spelman College, Stanford University, Tougaloo College, Tufts University, University of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, University of Miami, University of Pennsylvania, University of Puerto Rico, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, Xavier University of Louisiana, Yale University.
For more information on the Alliance and the symposium, visit the Alliance online.