Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

James T. Dorward


James T. Dorward


Karl White


J. Nicholls Eastmond


Tremendous growth in the biomedical science workforce has increased the need for trained scientists. The current workforce is severely underrepresented by minority groups, particularly Native Americans. To address this issue, the federal government funded programs that encouraged Native American students to participate in undergraduate biomedical science courses and research. One such program, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the Minority Student Development Program at Northern Arizona University. Little research has been done on educational programs for minority populations.

The purpose of this study was to identify and describe qualities and characteristics of the undergraduate research component of the federally funded Minority Student Development program from the perspective of Native American student participants. Qualitative case study methods were used to: (a) determine program qualities and characteristics, (b) develop a knowledge base about the experiences of Native American undergraduate student participants, ( c) identify career goals of students to determine if program participation influenced career choices, (d) understand the degree to which a student's cultural background influences career goals, and (e) evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Data were collected through interviews, observations, focus group discussions, informal discussions, questionnaire responses, meeting attendance, and document analysis. In all, 15 students, two program staff members, and eight faculty participated in the study.

Findings from this study include a description of the background and experiences of three subjects: Leroy, Samantha, and Jeremy. While the three were selected for their Native American ethnicity, differences were discovered in their cultural experiences. The three subjects were positive about their program experiences. Career goals of students were greatly influenced by program participation. Findings related to program qualities and characteristics were identified and found to be closely aligned with stated program goals. Suggestions for program improvement included: (a) formalizing the application process, (b) matching student researchers with faculty mentors based on common research interests and personality, (c) faculty mentors closely supervising students to provide support and encouragement, and (d) communicating program expectations for students regarding conference attendance, presenting, and publishing research results.



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Psychology Commons