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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
July 18, 2019
PEP Going Strong After Ten Years
It’s been ten years since the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative launched the Partnership Education Program (PEP) in 2009. The 11th PEP cohort, which numbers 14 students, recently completed their classroom work at SEA, as well as a short cruise aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, and are now living on the SEA campus while they do internships at scientific organizations in Woods Hole.
The idea behind PEP is to bring talented under-represented minorities to Woods Hole for ten-week summer research experiences. Dr. Adrienne George, an assistant professor of biology at University of Tampa and a PEP alumna, is the PEP project coordinator, a role she has had for the last four summers.
A highlight of this summer’s program, said George, was the recent cruise aboard the Cramer. This was the second year in a row that PEP students have had the opportunity to sail and conduct research aboard the ship.
“We stayed out a little bit longer this time. We spent more time sailing so students got to see how the boat operates,” said George.
It was not all smooth sailing. The five-day voyage to the waters off Block Island experienced high winds, rough seas, and rain.
“I think the students did really well and they pushed through. For many it was their first time at sea, and none had ever lived on a ship before,” said George.
“It was a bonding experience,” she said. Despite sea sickness, the students were resilient, they worked well together and were dedicated to the science deployments. The data collected on the cruise contributed to a well-attended poster session at SEA.
Another highlight of this year’s program was an NSF-funded workshop, held June 27 to 29, that brought together directors and graduates of eight undergraduate research programs, including PEP, as well as college faculty and administrators, government officials, and scholars with expertise in diversity, education, and research, to review the effectiveness of undergraduate internship programs and to develop a set of best practices so similar programs may be replicated elsewhere.
PEP students attended portions of the workshop, and met with PEP graduates and scientists at a reception. It was the first time that graduates from every PEP class had gathered, and an opportunity for PEP students to learn more about what graduates are doing now. PEP students and graduates had the chance to form personal connections and to network. They may also keep in touch with each other on a private PEP alumni page on Facebook. In addition, one of the take-aways from the workshop was that’s important for PEP to establish a strong alumni association, said George.
According to George, the current PEP class has also found time to explore and enjoy the community. There have been excursions to Provincetown and Boston, as well as a whale watching trip and a scavenger hunt.
“They’ve really made the most of it,” said George, who added that she is thrilled with this year’s PEP class.
“They’re really a great group, they’re extremely driven. They’ve come here ready to seize all the opportunities.”