Ocean Discovery Institute’s Scientist-in-Residence Program: A model of how science mentorship can prepare underrepresented minority students for careers in ocean science

Joel Barkan, Ocean Discovery Institute, San Diego, CA, United States, Catalina Martinez, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Narragansett, RI, United States and Jasmin G John, NOAA/GFDL, Princeton, NJ, United States
This submission addresses the session’s 2nd goal of enhancing recruitment and retention of URMs in ocean sciences. Young people of diverse backgrounds who live in underserved, urban communities typically find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty and are unaware of opportunities in ocean science, resulting in low recruitment of underrepresented minority students (URMs) into the field. One glaringly absent advantage for URMs as they pursue ocean science careers is a lack of science mentorship, particularly from scientist mentors of similar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Without mentorship, URMs can struggle to envision themselves as scientists and lack critical support networks. Ocean Discovery Institute, a San Diego-based organization, addresses this issue by using ocean science to empower URMs to transform their lives, their community, and our world as future scientific and conservation leaders. Our unique model provides 10,000 URMs annually in one community with continuous, tuition-free science education from kindergarten to career, paired with mentoring opportunities and tools for success. Our Scientist-in-Residence (SIR) program brings visiting scientist mentors to our state-of-the-art Living Lab science education center in the underserved urban community of City Heights, San Diego. SIRs live and work at our facility for up to 3 months, with primary goals of mentoring students and sharing their science with our community. For our URM students, daily interactions with an SIR help dispel stereotypes about what it means to be a scientist and normalizes the option of pursuing a career in science in a community that lacks science role models. Through our SIR program, our students find lifelong advocates and strengthen their support networks. Conversations and activities with SIRs strengthen our students’ science identities and sense of science self-efficacy, ultimately creating a belief in URMs that science is something they can do and a scientist is someone they can be. Our model has resulted in 95% of students in our most rigorous programs graduating high school and pursuing higher education, at a high school with a 30% graduation rate, as well as 75% of our students earning a college degree within 6 years and 40% majoring in STEM or environmental fields.