ASCC students (front l-r) Sefilina Skelton, Yean Ji Jung, and Suluga Taliau have been selected as participants in BUILD EXITO, an extended study program designed to foster careers in biomedical research. Also pictured is BUILD EXITO Project Reearcher at ASCC, Dr. Daniel Chang. (Courtesy Photo)

Four ASCC Students Chosen for Biomedical Research Training Program

July 13, 2015

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

Four students at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) have successfully applied to participate in BUILD EXITO, a program launched by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to prepare college undergraduates for careers in the field of biomedical research. Students Sefilina Skelton, Suluga Taliau, Yean Ji Jung and Ernest Puletasi have made the commitment to enter the BUILD EXITO program, which will give them access to training in the foundations of biomedical research while they pursue their degrees at ASCC. Following graduation from ASCC, the students will have the option of continuing their studies in biomedical research with support from the program.

Funded by the NIH and administered by Portland State University, BUILD EXITO is a collaboration between 10 partner universities and colleges, including ASCC. The acronym BUILD stands for Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity, and EXITO for Enhancing Cross Disciplinary Infrastructure and Training at Oregon. The goal of BUILD EXITO is to enhance diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and social sciences research workforce by implementing broad-based approaches training for undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds who wish to engage in biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social science research.

EXITO aims to achieve this goal by supporting research experiences for undergraduates; building research learning communities; and providing tailored and amplified student support at each stage of the educational pathway. EXITO is under the leadership of PSU, in collaboration with Oregon Health and Science University as a research intensive partner. EXITO partnering institutions include Portland Community College, University of Alaska-Anchorage, University of Hawaii-Manoa, University of Guam, and ASCC.

“The program is based on a five-year grant, and this is our first year,” said BUILD EXITO Project Investigator for ASCC Dr. Daniel Chang, who explained that a review committee consisting of himself, ASCC Science faculty and a faculty member from Community & Natural Resources selected the four participating students out of a total of seven applicants. The student’s introduction to BUILD EXITO will begin next month with a week-long orientation in Hawaii. For the next two semesters, they will take an online course from the UH Manoa School of Public Health on biomedical research methodology which will cover working with an Institutional Review Board, research ethics, and relevant literature. The online course will prepare the students for their one month summer research project at PSU in 2016.

As the students progress through BUILD EXITO, they will be supported with stipends to cover their training, travel and accommodation. This support will increase exponentially the longer the students remain in the program. “If any of the selected student choose to attend one of the four partnering universities after graduating from ASCC, they will continue to receive stipends, with the amount depending on the partnering university,” said Dr. Chang, who added that BUILD EXITO students who transfer to PSU can receive up to $988 stipend per month for 18 months and 60% tuition reduction for 1.5 years if attending PSU in the 3rd and 4th years of their bachelor degree.

“I think ASCC students will benefit from BUILD EXITO through exposure to other research universities and their curricula and pedagogies,” Dr. Chang reflected. “It will provide incentive for our Health Science and Nursing students who would like to continue their studies off-island.” Dr. Chang said that any ASCC students who meet the minimum criteria can apply to participate in BUILD EXITO each spring semester. Students should have an interest in some type of research in science or social science. “We encourage any science students, health science students, nursing students, social science students, or even liberal art students to apply,” he clarified.

For more information on BUILD EXITO, contact Dr. Daniel Chang at ASCC by calling 699-9155, extension 476 during normal business hours.