The National Role Models Project is a tried strategy with a new twist. Rather than honoring glamorous stars of sports and entertainment as role models, Minority Access honors inspiring students, faculty, alumni, innovators and diverse institutions as role models to expand the pool of minority scientists, researchers and professionals in fields underrepresented by minorities. Although Minority Access takes great pride in providing a venue for publicizing and honoring role models, the National Role Models Conference, we believe that the success of the program is not limited to the identification and recognition of high achievers, but has a broader impact. By expanding the pool of research and technology talent from underrepresented groups, we contribute to the strength of the nation. The National Role Models Project addresses the need to replenish from domestic sources -- albeit heretofore largely untapped -- research, science and technology positions being vacated by a retiring workforce to ensure our nationís long term competitive edge in a global society.
Minority Access implemented the National Role Models Project in 1999 -- in cooperation initially with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and now with 170 diverse colleges and universities -- to identify, publicize and honor students and alumni from underrepresented groups who excelled in biomedical research as well as their supporters to inspire others, through emulation, to follow in their path. The Minority Access National Role Models Project was later expanded to honor inspiring individuals in other areas of science and technology.
The concept emulates an effective strategy in the entertainment and sports fields. Noticing that exposing young people to high profile individuals in these glitzy worlds as role models generated an insatiable desire to emulate them, Minority Access questioned why this should not work for disciplines underrepresented by minority talent. And unlike the many hopes dashed by the realization that only a few become stars in the entertainment and sports industries, success can be plentiful for those seeking rewarding careers in research, science, health, engineering and technology.
Minority Access first focused on the need for more research on illnesses that disproportionately afflict minorities - - strokes, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and cancer. We solicited the support of colleges and universities throughout the nation to assist in identifying minorities who were excelling in biomedical research and could be publicized and honored as Minority Access Role Models. The rationale was that if we highlight these individuals as role models, just as they do in entertainment and sports, this would inspire other minorities to pursue biomedical research. More minority biomedical researchers would logically lead to more research on diseases afflicting minorities and subsequently more cures.
Minority Access has publicized and honored students during their collegiate years who are now recipients of masterís degrees and earned doctorate degrees, including Ph.D.ís and M.D.ís. We are convinced that their being publicized and honored as Minority Access Role Models has contributed to the expansion of the pool of student researchers from underrepresented groups. Many have shared with us stories of their elevated status on campus after being honored as a Minority Access Role Model. Just as persons strive to emulate the stars of Hollywood and professional sport leagues, students strive to emulate their peers who are stars on their campus.
In addition to students, faculty and alumni from underrepresented groups honored as Role Models by Minority Access are their supporters, recruiters and administrators as well as innovators who have gained national attention for their benefit to mankind. Each one of these individuals has an inspiring story, often including overcoming difficult obstacles to achieve. Minority Access has honored nearly 300 individuals over the past ten years.
Critical to the success of the studentsí development is the support not only of the faculty and administrators but also the institution. Accordingly, the National Role Models Project encourages colleges and universities to promote environments conducive to nurturing a diverse student body in order to recruit, retain and graduate more students from underrepresented groups, especially in research, science and technology disciplines. Minority Access bestows recognition on colleges and universities committed to diversity. We publish their diversity plans and programs so that other institutions seeking to increase campus diversity might emulate them. Over 100 research universities, prestigious small colleges, professional schools and community colleges have been honored by Minority Access.