The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently awarded a five-year, $1.015 million grant to the Career Opportunities in Research (COR) program at CSULB to support its efforts in helping outstanding psychology majors from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue their doctorate degrees. CSULB's Career Opportunities in Research (COR) program is in its 26th year on the campus.
"Our mission is to expand the pool of academically talented students committed to careers in scholarly research on mental health issues," said COR Director Chi-Ah Chun. "The selection of participants is based on academic merit, commitment to program goals, the potential for acceptance to a graduate program and the availability of appropriate faculty mentors."
The program is committed to increasing the diversity and excellence of mental health researchers by increasing the number of applicants who have faced social and cultural barriers such as socioeconomic background, limited educational opportunities and ethnicity.
CSULB's COR program is one of the first of 26 sites funded by NIMH. "Our program is unique in the sense that it is one of the few among 15 programs currently funded that has only psychology majors," said Chun.
This fall, seven CSULB psychology majors in the two-year program began attending a bi-weekly research training seminar. During the summer between the first and second year, students pursue a summer research internship at a different university, and in the fall of their second year, they return to the regular biweekly seminar.
Students are also assigned to a faculty mentor and work on the mentor's research as well as develop their own independent projects. In return for their efforts, students are offered an annual stipend of $10,596 as well as tuition and travel expenses.
"The program has survived 25 years thanks to the support of the Psychology Department and the success of our students," explained COR founder and co-program director John Jung. "There are at least two dozen former students who earned their Ph.D.s. We average one a year and two of our past students have joined the CSULB faculty."
"Our achievement with COR gives the NIMH credibility and faith in our ability to be successful," Chun said. "One of the reasons I was drawn to this department back in 2000 was the COR program. Then, Dr. Jung was gracious enough to ask me to become more involved. This funding renewal is meaningful to me because I was so afraid I would lose what has become such an integral part of the Psychology Department and our students' experience here. I look forward to another 25 years of this program so that we can celebrate a golden anniversary to match our silver."
Chun believes one of the program's strengths is its outreach. "We recruit most of our students on the basis of CSULB faculty recommendations," she explained. "But we also reach out beyond CSULB to transfer students from such neighboring community campuses as Cerritos College where our program is quite well known."
Chun's leadership goal is to continue COR's success in recruiting more students from underrepresented backgrounds into graduate school. "Our big picture aim is to contribute to the pool of minority researchers in the United States," she said. "Through that, we want to help reduce physical and mental health disparities that plague our society today. If we can bring our society closer to the aim of achieving good health for every American, I think we will have succeeded."