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ACCESS day at U Chemistry 2024

aOn June 26, 2024, the Department of Chemistry and its students and faculty welcomed future scientists who are part of the University of Utah the ACCESS program. The College of Science ACCESS Scholars is a first-year community, research and scholarship program for students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The program offers a unique introductory year encounter that enlightens scholars about their academic and professional aspirations from the very beginning. It boosts their social awareness, brings a community of peers who share similar goals together, and connects first-year science students with mentors and a vast network of over 800 program alumni.

Gina Frey, Ronald and Eileen Ragsdale Professor of Chemical Education, noted, "I feel so privileged to be the Chemistry liaison to the College of Science ACCESS Program. It is an amazing program that provides a supportive cohort-based first-year experience in STEM. I enjoyed spending the day with this year’s cohort of ACCESS scholars and learning about their experiences and interests during Chemistry day for the two-week summer ACCESS event. These students are so eager to learn about and experience science; I am looking forward to mentoring them throughout this coming year. I also had the privilege to work with two of our Chemistry graduate women and four of the ACS Student Chapter undergraduates to plan our day; this planning group was terrific and were amazing facilitators for the students. They are wonderful role models for these incoming students." And Delaney Miller, Chemistry student and ACS Utah President wrote: "At the American Chemical Society Student Chapter at the U, we have been very lucky to help coordinate ACCESS Chemistry Day over the last two years. We love interacting with the ACCESS students and seeing how much fun they have interacting with our chemistry demonstrations. We would love to see these outstanding students at our ACS meetings in the future and taking classes in our outstanding department!"

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History of ACCESS

Originally named the ACCESS Program for Women in Science and Mathematics, ACCESS was established in 1991, with a goal of priming undergraduate women for academic and career success in science disciplines. 

ACCESS was created when Dr. Hugo Rossi, Dean of the University of Utah College of Science (91’) and world-renowned mathematician, was inspired by a group of Utah women in STEM careers, and studies that found that women in science had fewer opportunities than men at the time, especially in Utah. In hopes of addressing this inequity, Dr. Rossi submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the creation of a University of Utah program to support young women interested in studying science and mathematics.

Thanks to the work of Dr. Rossi and numerous collaborators, including Carolyn Connell, Colleen Kennedy, Richard Steiner, Jacquelyn Stonebraker, and Christopher Johnson, the NSF proposal was approved and the ACCESS Program for Women in Science and Mathematics was founded. NSF funding for the program ended in 1993, but through support from the University, our community, and private donors, ACCESS continues to thrive and evolve.

The first ACCESS class (‘91) consisted of 20 science students. Since then, each year the ACCESS award has supported an average of 33 students each year. The ACCESS alumni network continues to grow and is now over 800 strong.

dThe program was re-envisioned in 2018 in response to changing demographic demands and under new directorship. This included establishing partnerships with the College of Engineering, the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, and the Department of Communications. This One U model broadens recruiting efforts and helps students to inform their academic and professional goals at the earliest possible stage in their undergraduate education. 

In addition, the program now begins with a new (2018) ACCESS exclusive summer course, Science in a Changing World (SCI 3000). The curriculum in this “STEAM” (STEM with integration of arts and humanities) based course affords students with an opportunity to consider and learn about global policy, communication, and STEM. Research faculty and graduate students from the Colleges of Science, Mines & Earth Sciences, and Engineering, as well as an array of campus and community program representatives participate in instruction.    

Changes to the summer curriculum have made it possible to offer the ACCESS award to college transfer students for the first time in its 30-year history. This was a critical change as transfer students represent approximately 30% of the University of Utah undergraduate population (based on 2018 data). 

sIn 2021, the ACCESS Program rebranded as “ACCESS Scholars” to more accurately reflect the program’s values of excellence, leadership, and belonging. Most ACCESS students give back to the student community, make research and engagement a signature part of their undergraduate experience, and go onto graduate and professional schools after graduation. As “ACCESS Scholars” students will readily identify the program as a distinguishing opportunity that recognizes excellence but also encourages and rewards future mentorship. 

As time passes, the ACCESS program will continue to adapt to best suit the needs of the scientific, engineering, and University of Utah communities. ACCESS works for students today, and the workforce of tomorrow, with a vision of greater community and accessibility across STEM fields.

Last Updated: 7/8/24