Building Integrated Pathways to Independence for Diverse Biomedical Researchers: Project Pathways, the BUILD Program at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Funding Source

California Energy Commission, National Institutes of Health

Grant Number

U54GM119024, UL1GM118967 8TL4GM118968,RL5GM118966


Department of Chemistry

Document Type


Publication Date



Background and purpose: Xavier University of Louisiana is a historically Black and Catholic university that is nationally recognized for its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula. Approximately 73% of Xavier's students are African American, and about 77% major in the biomedical sciences. Xavier is a national leader in the number of STEM majors who go on to receive M.D. degrees and Ph.D. degrees in science and engineering. Despite Xavier's advances in this area, African Americans still earn about 7.5% of the Bachelor's degrees, less than 8% of the Master's degrees, and less than 5% of the doctoral degrees conferred in STEM disciplines in the United States. Additionally, although many well-prepared, highly-motivated students are attracted by Xavier's reputation in the sciences, many of these students, though bright and capable, come from underperforming public school systems and receive substandard preparation in STEM disciplines. The purpose of this article is to describe how Xavier works to overcome unequal education backgrounds and socioeconomic challenges to develop student talent through expanding biomedical training opportunities and build on an established reputation in science education. Program and key highlights: The National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)-funded BUILD (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity) Program at Xavier University of Louisiana, Project Pathways, is a highly-innovative program designed to broaden the career interests of students early on, and to engage them in activities that entice them to continue their education towards biomedical research careers. Project strategies involve a transformation of Xavier's academic and non-academic programs through the redesign, supplementation and integration of academic advising, tutoring, career services, personal counseling, undergraduate research training, faculty research mentoring, and development of new biomedical and research skills courses. The Program also focuses on mentor training and providing faculty members with opportunities to improve their teaching skills as well as their research competitiveness. In addition to the wide range of activities supported by BUILD within the institution, Xavier University is partnering with a number of major research universities across the nation to achieve Project Pathways' goals. Implications: The strategies developed by Project Pathways are designed to address the challenges and barriers Xavier students face as they work towards graduate studies and entering the biomedical workforce. Xavier University of Louisiana has a long history of providing high quality, rigorous education to African American students in a very supportive environment with highly dedicated faculty and staff. The program highlighted here could be used by other institutions as a model program for assisting students in STEM and other biomedical fields of study to successfully matriculate through college and graduate school and develop their research careers.


DOI: 10.1186/s12919-017-0081-x

  • Funding text #1

    Project Pathways is a collaborative program supported by the combined, coordinated efforts of the Institutional Development Core (IDC), Student Training Core (STC), and Research Enrichment Core (REC). The Administrative Core oversees the activities of all Cores, and also provides support to enhance faculty research competitiveness. The Student Training, Research Enrichment, and Institutional Development Cores, together, have activities designed for students from freshmen to seniors, in addition to select recent Xavier graduates. These activities were developed to address the challenges and barriers Xavier students face in their path to the biomedical workforce, effectively increasing their graduation rates and improving their success rates in research careers.

  • Funding text #2

    The professional staff from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (CURGO) and Office of Career Services (OCS) help to prepare students to define and reach their career goals. This especially holds true for undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines who comprise 76% of Xavier’s student body. Xavier’s signature professional programs in pre-medicine and pre-pharmacy are very popular because students easily identify with the aforementioned careers and clearly see the pathway to and benefits of, success. However, many of Xavier’s students are unaware of biomedical careers outside of medicine and pharmacy. Through a series of broad-based workshops funded by the Project Pathways Program, CURGO and OCS assist Xavier students, beginning in the freshman year, in gaining a better understanding of the nature of biomedical research careers. Early exposure to biomedical research career paths allows students the opportunity to build the skills necessary for success. ...View all

  • Funding text #3

    Work reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund and Office of Scientific Workforce Diversity (USA). Publication of this article was funded by the CEC awards U54GM119024 and U54GM119024–03:S1 administered by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers UL1GM118967 8TL4GM118968, and RL5GM118966. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.