The Establishment of the Research Gateway Scholars Program–guided by an effective model and best practices

The Research Gateway Scholars Program is a student academic services initiative sponsored by the University of Southern California, Office of Undergraduate Programs. During the fall of 2014, the Research Gateway Scholars Program was initiated by Dr. Gene Bickers, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs, and Dr. Richard Andalon, Director of the McNair Undergraduate Program and Associate Dean with the USC Graduate School. Dr. Andalon organized the program’s initial administrative structure, service plan, assessment protocols, and marketing strategies. The program builds upon the best program practices and remarkable success of the USC McNair Scholars Program. Dr. Bickers secured the necessary administrative support to initiate the program including its comprehensive budget and departmental status within the Office of Undergraduate Programs. Through an array of academic affairs initiatives and student services, the Research Gateway Scholars Program provides educational and career advising, academic skills building workshops, seminars, research training and other research-related opportunities, graduate school preparation, mentorships, summer programs, opportunities to participate in national-level academic and professional conferences, scholarships and other supplemental funding. Eligible students include a select group of high-achieving undergraduates from first-generation college backgrounds, low-income households, and historically underrepresented minority communities. At USC, the program is administered collaboratively with the support of multiple departments across the university. In critical ways, the program complements USC’s core academic, student affairs, and diversity programs.

USC staff and faculty work closely with program participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements and encourage them to enroll in graduate programs. All academic disciplines are eligible, including the arts and humanities, social science, natural science, engineering, public health, and business. The program tracks students’ progress all through their undergraduate years until the successful completion of advanced degrees. The goal is to increase the attainment of graduate-level degrees, specifically Ph.D. degrees and other doctorates. The program aims to diversify the student bodies at the graduate-level and the professoriate ranks.

In summary, the Research Gateway Scholars Program provides following services: opportunities for research and other scholarly activities; workshops and seminars designed to prepare students for graduate-level study, specifically the doctorate; and advising designed to assist students with securing graduate-level admission and financial assistance. Furthermore, the program may provide the following: mentoring programs involving faculty members and graduate students; and exposing students to cultural events and academic programs not usually available to disadvantaged populations.

At USC, each Research Gateway Scholar is recognized upon their selection for the program and at the time they graduate from the university. While in the program, every Gateway Scholar is awarded a $2,800 stipend to support a full-time research agenda throughout the summer while working in collaboration with a USC faculty mentor. Additionally, Research Gateway Scholars are eligible for program-sponsored summer housing through their scholarship, with a value up to $2000. In short, the USC Research Gateway Scholars Program is a year-round rigorous program that provides students with meaningful academic experiences and important financial resources.