SURGE scholars share how mentorship program has contributed to their personal, professional growth

SURGE scholars and administrators visit the Wayne State University Integrative Biosciences Center.

The Success for Underrepresented Students in Graduate Education (SURGE) program run by the Wayne State University Graduate School is a mentorship program that pairs graduate student mentors with undergraduate trainees with the goal of mitigating the challenges prospects from underserved backgrounds face in their track to graduate school and diversify the graduate student body. 

The third cohort capped a successful academic year this month. The 2023-24 SURGE mentor and trainee applications are currently open

Four SURGE scholars share how the program has assisted in their personal and professional growth. 

Shaqyna Ross

Psychology major

Ross, who is also a McNair scholar, joined SURGE as a trainee because she was interested in furthering her education beyond a bachelor’s, but as a first-generation college student, didn’t know where to start. 

“The experience has allowed me to gain a mentor who has helped encourage and push me to pursue higher education. It's been instrumental to receive advice from graduate students who were once in my shoes.”

It inspired her to put herself out in the academic arena and present her research on medical mistrust among minority adolescents at numerous conferences this year, including at Michigan State University, the 2023 UMBC McNair Research Conference, and the 2024 National Conference on Undergraduate Research. 

“I'm always nervous, but when I start talking, the words always flow, and I end up getting a lot of positive feedback.”

Christopher Roberts

Ph.D. student, chemical engineering

Roberts earned his bachelor’s in chemical engineering and material science from WSU and participated in REUs overseas that garnered his interest in clinical-based research. He returned to WSU to pursue his Ph.D. and learn how to apply engineering methods to clinical development. 

He joined SURGE as a mentor to help undergraduates navigate the many questions he had when it came time to navigate the graduate school application process. 

“It’s truly remarkable to see how bright and talented students are, and if given the right push in the correct direction, watching them open up and rise to the occasion is inspiring. It has shown me that sometimes, a kind word from a mentor can be the most powerful tool to help future students overcome challenges and succeed.”

Siedah Outlaw

Criminal justice major

Feelings of self-doubt and concerns over her marketability is what pushed Outlaw to join SURGE. 

“My mentor helped me think about and prepare for the challenges that come with being a graduate student. Already, her constructive feedback and encouragement has helped me grow and develop as a professional. I am confident that her help will be invaluable as I pursue my graduate studies and career.”

Outlaw walked across the commencement stage earlier this month and has already applied for the J.D. program at the Wayne State University Law School. 

Aaron Lotvola

Ph.D. candidate, cancer biology

Lotvola knows what it means to make the most of graduate school. His research on metastatic prostate cancer cell growth has won numerous awards at university symposiums, including the 2023 School of Medicine Research Day and the 2024 Graduate Research Symposium

“The science at Wayne State is great, but the environment here is also incredibly supportive. I have found the people here to be very welcoming and understanding. Importantly, there are resources available and student bodies to call upon whenever you have a question.”

He paid that support forward by becoming a SURGE mentor. 

“I always wanted to get involved and become a mentor within my field. I have a background of teaching students abroad, however not in English. Through SURGE, I hope to obtain a deeper understanding of being an effective mentor and utilize my skills to assist the next generation of cancer scientists.”

Learn more about the SURGE program.

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