Our program has an excellent track record in mentoring and retaining under-represented minority trainees. We are pleased to see that our diversity enhancement strategies are beginning to show results. In this current grant period, and especially in the past year, we have significantly increased the number of URMs and disabled students. We added six under-represented minority students, four students in the past year alone, as trainees to the program, bringing the total to 25%. Two of the students are from Puerto Rico, one other student is Hispanic, one is American Indian, and two trainees are African-American. We also count three students with self-reported disabilities among our students; two of them were appointed to the training grant this past year. Under-represented minority participation in our program is twice the average for other graduate programs, especially engineering programs, reflecting our continuous efforts to recruit URM students to our training program.
URM outreach and recruitment is a continuous, long-term effort and we have made steady gains over the years. In addition to our participation in conferences to present our program to under-represented minority undergraduate students from other universities, we have a sustained collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico. The training program not only goes to the University of Puerto Rico for recruitment but also contributes to their teaching and research, especially in areas where we have complementary strength.
For the past four years, training grant faculty visited the University of Puerto Rico annually. Our faculty gave seminars and classroom lectures and talked to students about opportunities available at the University of Minnesota. In the summer of 2015, we hosted a group of students from the University of Puerto Rico. Our trainees organized activities to introduce them to Minnesota, our graduate programs, and the biotechnology training grant. In the fall of 2015, Professors Hu and Smanski gave lectures at the University of Puerto Rico. They met with students and encouraged them to apply to our graduate programs. Professors Torres and Miazzo of the UPR and their students have visited the University of Minnesota multiple times to discuss collaborations and participate in Hu’s annual cell culture bioprocess technology course.