SFSU, UCSF receive $14.8 million to continue promoting diversity in science

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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco State University and the University of California, San Francisco received a $14.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Thursday to continue a program that promotes diversity in the field of biomedical sciences for an additional five years.

The initiative, SF BUILD (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity) is one of the 10 NIH-funded BUILD programs in the nation.

Each program aims to diversify the field in different ways.

SF BUILD is known for its positive approach and shying away from under-representing students, instead hopes the university environment is more welcoming.

“We’re focusing on the ways we can make a change institutionally and the ways we can work with our faculty to change the lengs of what can help our students from underrepresented groups succeed in science,” SF BUILD Assistant Director Audrey Parangan-Smith said.

Faculty and staff train instructors on how to avoid certain language that is known to impact student’s performance from underrepresented groups.

SF BUILD Director and SF State Professor of Biology Leticia Marquez-Magana said the goal is to build on SFSU’s history of activism and create a community of students and faculty to come together to make change.

Researchers have struggled with recruiting diverse study participants because of the lack of diversity in researchers and practitioners.

“You have to have diversity in participants, otherwise the lessons you learn are not useful,” UCSF Professor of Medicine Tung Nguyen said.

The universities say the next five years of SF BUILD will focus on institutionalizing programs and ensuring they’ll live on after the five-year fund.

They plan to see a shift in focus towards deeper issues that strongly impact students.

“From the data we’ve collected, it’s clear that the chronic racism students experience in STEM is bad for their emotional and mental health and causes under-performance in the classroom,” Marquez-Magana said.

Program leaders said they have already seen a change in how faculty members talk about the challenges and issues students face.

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