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STAR Scholars Research Program a Deciding Factor for Undergraduate Student

Headshots of student

By Beth Ann Downey

September 10, 2020

Though it takes place a full three terms after they arrive on campus, some first-year students who participate in Drexel University’s STAR Scholars program the summer going into their second year plan to do so even before they arrive on campus for the first time as Dragons.

Whether it’s the stipend — which this year was raised from $3,500 to $4,500 for the summer because the students couldn’t be housed on campus — or the connections with faculty mentors that attract them, many like public health major Andrea Eleazar do not find comparable programs available to first-year students at the other schools they apply to before choosing Drexel.

“STAR Scholars was actually one of the deciding factors of going to Drexel because of the money factor and also because of the one-on-one experience that you get with the mentor,” said Eleazar, whose mentor was Usama Bilal, PhD, MPH, MD, assistant professor in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics department and the Urban Health Collaborative.

However well they planned in advance, this year’s cohort of research scholars certainly couldn’t have expected what the COVID-19 pandemic would have in store for them and the program this summer. That is, completing research and final poster board presentations remotely, or having to defer their involvement in the program to the fall-winter or spring-summer terms of this coming academic year in order to participate in on-campus research as part of phase 2 of the University’s Research Ramp-Up Plan.

But like a lot of opportunities Drexel has to offer students, the pandemic couldn’t stop this program from moving forward one way or another.

“As long as research was continuing at Drexel, we felt very strongly that our 2020 STAR Scholars could and should be able to participate in those activities,” said Jaya Mohan, director of Undergraduate Research and Enrichment Programs for the Pennoni Honors College. “We know the impact the STAR Scholars program has on our students, like increasing their confidence in their own abilities and helping them clarify their academic and professional goals, and we knew we had to do everything in our power to provide that experience to these students.”

Part of Eleazar’s experience was “sitting in” on virtual meetings of the ongoing Salud Urbana en América Latina (SALURBAL) project out of the Dornsife School of Public Health’s Urban Health Collaborative, of which her mentor, Bilal, is an investigator. “I hope to get involved with the Urban Health Collaborative going forward,” Eleazar said.

Keep reading the STAR scholars story on Drexel Now