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Northwest College pilots new collaboration that hopes to direct more rural students to science careers


The idea is to make sure that students know their potential career options in science. And if they go that route, they have a leg up.

Northwest College biological sciences professor Eric Atkinson said not knowing what options exist is especially a problem with students in rural places. He said they come into his class thinking being a game warden is their only option.

“Little do they realize what other opportunities there are: wildlife research, ecotoxicology, diseases, ecology,” he said. “All these other opportunities that can be really rewarding, and they won't have to write tickets.”

Atkinson said at Northwest they are trying to do this by removing the barrier of staying within one department

“The analyses have shown that when students have this inclusive view towards their academics, they're much more successful and it becomes much more holistic, and they internalize it and understand concepts much better,” he said.

The collaboration is with the University of Wyoming. The funding comes from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence 3 Grant who has partnered with 15 other universities across the country. Other Wyoming community colleges are starting to get involved as well.

Atkinson said an example of how the collaboration works is UW researchers helping him with field work. This fall, he will be assisted by three research assistants in a bumblebee physiology lab at UW.

“So what I look at that as an opportunity, one is I get some help. They're experts on pollination ecology, and they're all three women that can be role models for some of our rural young women, students,” Atkinson said. “Those are the endeavors that will be provided funding as this grant gets dispersed.”

Ultimately,more than $8 million in additional funding will be distributed among the 15 institutional teams, which will enable them to continue their work.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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