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(NORTHRIDGE, Calif. May 12, 2009) On Friday, May 8, 12 undergraduate students gave presentations about their research projects for the year as part of the Career Opportunities in Research (COR) program. Five first-year COR students presented findings from their partnerships with community-based organizations (e.g., Family Stress Center, Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center). In these projects, students spent the year interning at a CBO to help them achieve their research goals and develop a sustainable research plan. Seven graduating COR scholars also presented the findings from their independent honors theses, in which they carried out their own research project under the mentorship of their faculty sponsor.
COR has existed in the Department of Psychology, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at CSUN since 2001. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the California Endowment, and through the generosity of Provost Harold Hellenbrand and Dean Stella Theodoulou, the COR program at CSU Northridge provides coursework, research experience in a faculty laboratory and as a data intern in a CBO, opportunities for conference presentations and publications, tangible support, and perhaps most importantly, an intellectual community to support underrepresented students’ goals related to gaining access to a doctoral program in the service of initiating a career in mental health research. An evaluation of COR suggests that the program provides “value added” by greatly increasing students’ knowledge and experience in professional activities. Indeed, in 18 out of 19 markers, COR students were significantly stronger than similar non-COR students (in experiences like collecting research data, presenting findings, visiting campuses to discuss their graduate programs, etc.). Since its inception, CSUN’s COR program has a 100% graduation rate, 83% went directly into a graduate program, and 57% went directly into doctoral programs (last year, 75% went into doctoral programs, and the remainder (4 students) plan to attend graduate school in the future. The COR program, then, has been successful in meeting its goal of increasing workforce diversity, generating research relevant to special populations, and in generating liaisons between the academic and community on behalf of those with health and mental health-related challenges.