STEM career paths are wrought with secret handshakes and unspoken rules which (rather than selecting for the most motivated, meritorious scientists) too often block first-generation students from research and innovation. Students whose parents or older siblings already navigated the uphill PhD battle are pre-equipped with a map of steps to making conscious, informed decisions about their future STEM career. While advisors and professors are passionate about supporting students, without key background information, first-generation students don’t know what to ask.
STEM Routes is a student organization, founded and run by traditionally under-represented and first-generation graduate students who faced the same systemic discrimination in our attempts to gain access to research and build our STEM careers. STEM Routes is our effort to serve as the mentors we wish we had.
STEM Routes was formed in summer of 2018 by a group of graduate mentors for the SMART (Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training) Program. All of us shared a similar experience as we struggled to navigate our path to graduate school because we didn't know about the unspoken rules of preparing for and applying to graduate programs. In response to the need for better support for first-generation and underrepresented students, we formed STEM Routes to teach undergraduate students about research through educational workshops, community, and mentorship.