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      HomeOur CompanyDiscover J&JDiversity, Equity & InclusionMorgan State University: Supporting the next generation of diverse researchers
      A group picture of 9 of the Morgan State University Researchers and winners of the ASCEND Scholars Award

      Morgan State University: Supporting the next generation of diverse researchers

      Johnson & Johnson and Morgan State University welcomed the ninth cohort for the ASCEND (A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development) Scholars program.

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      The need for greater diversity and representation in biomedical/biobehavioral research is well documented. To meet this need, it is critical that we support historically marginalized students in attaining science majors and help them pursue postgraduate training and professional careers in science. Undergraduate research is an effective tool that helps build the sense of science identity and self-efficacy that the next generation of biomedical/biobehavioral researchers need to succeed.

      In 2015, Morgan State University was awarded the National Institutes of Health’s Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity award to develop an institutional research development program. The result was the ASCEND (A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development) Scholars program, which gives students ownership of their research experience by providing them with the freedom to choose and develop their own research topics, with guidance from faculty and near-peer mentors.

      Creating enduring alliances and building a diverse healthcare workforce

      ASCEND Scholars’ unique two-year program provides historically marginalized students with the opportunity to create and implement their own research projects while participating in courses and workshops that prepare them for graduate school and to pursue careers in health research. Scholars receive tuition support, stipends, professional workshops and individual mentoring. The program’s curriculum is designed to increase scholars’ mathematical skills, expose them to the latest science technologies, and develop their critical thinking and communication skills. ASCEND Scholars’ overarching objective is to help participants enter graduate and professional training and, ultimately, become leaders in their chosen fields.

      Johnson & Johnson recently partnered with Morgan State University to support 10 ASCEND Scholars. This collaboration demonstrates the bold commitment Johnson & Johnson has made through its Our Race to Health Equity initiative to help eradicate racial and social injustice as public health threats. Johnson & Johnson does this by creating enduring alliances and increasing the diversity of the healthcare talent pipeline and workforce.

      “It’s an honor to partner with Morgan State University to help students of color become tomorrow’s leaders in biomedical/biobehavioral research through the ASCEND Scholars program,” said Shelina Ramnarine, PhD, Director of Our Race to Health Equity Community Engagement at Johnson & Johnson. “I look forward to seeing these talented scholars use the skills they develop to serve their communities, advance their fields and create a more equitable future for healthcare.”

      Success of the Scholars Program

      ASCEND Scholars stand out among their peers for their leadership ability, self-confidence and understanding of the research needs faced by their communities. The program has been a tremendous success to date, training over 100 scholars from more than a dozen different majors in how to propose, develop and complete research projects in biomedical and biobehavioral research.

      Compared to students with similar demographics and academic credentials, ASCEND Scholars have much higher second-year retention rates, an early indicator that a student will complete their degree. Program participants also graduate at much higher levels, with 100% of scholars who completed their two-year training graduating or nearing graduation. Of those who have graduated, 68% have entered post-graduate training programs.

      Meet this year’s ASCEND Scholars

      The ASCEND Scholars program’s ninth cohort is continuing this momentum, bringing on 10 exceptional scholars who are passionate about using biomedical/biobehavioral research to serve their communities. Its members include academic award recipients, honor society members, a published author and a founder of an on-campus organization that supports women interested in pursuing a career in medicine/healthcare.

      Scroll through the carousel below to learn more about these remarkable scholars and their achievements and goals for the future.

      D'Robyhan Berry, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Gizelle Harris, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Mya Merrill, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Blossom Onwubuariri, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Kadidja Perou, ASCEND Scholars Program awardee
      Tamera Trumuel, ASCENT Scholars Program Awardee
      Jahari Nelson, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Daniel-Ashley Lindo, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Micheline Sonkro, ASCEND Scholars Program Awardee
      Monica Bandura, ASCEND Scholars Program
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