PSU BUILD EXITO Summer Happenings

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By Jen Lindwall


For those studying and working in academic environments, summer is a unique opportunity to pursue personal and professional endeavors, make progress on milestones, and take time for much-needed rest and relaxation. In May, Portland State University (PSU)’s BUILD EXITO Scholars were asked about their goals for summer 2018. They expressed wanting to accomplish a variety of goals, ranging from academic to research goals:

“I wanted to be fully prepped for the MCAT!”

“I am going to submit my medical and grad school applications.”

“I hope to successfully present at an International Conference!”

“I am excited to get started in my research lab.”

And there was even a Scholar who planned to focus on “reading for pleasure and lounging in my hammock.”


As students returned from the warm summer months, it is clear that PSU BUILD Scholars took advantage of the season.

Juell Towns, Sabrina Shofner, and Mustafa Ahmed represented EXITO at this year’s Alzheimer's Association International Conference


Scholars Sabrina Shofner, Juell Towns, and Mustafa Ahmed worked with Allison Lindauer, Ph.D, conducting research pertaining to healthy aging, dementia diagnosis and treatment, and caregiver support. This June, Scholars had the opportunity to combine travel with academic growth when they ventured to Chicago, Illinois to present at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference. Members of other Cohorts were also able to spend time with one another pursuing individual and shared goals.

This summer, the incoming fourth cohort of BUILD EXITO Scholars attended a week-long New Scholar Orientation. Scholars from nine schools across the EXITO consortium gathered in Portland for a week of speakers, panels, small group activities, shared meals, and individual work to continue pursuing their areas of interest. Highlights from the week included site introductions where our Pacific Island Scholars shared traditional dances, and the culminating elevator pitches where each Scholar passionately and confidently shared their research interests with the entire group in just 60 seconds. As always, the insight, courage, and excitement of these new Scholars inspired staff and faculty alike.


New Scholars Harold Christopher Omotoy, Franklyn Santos, David Phan, Steven Barro, and Michael Alovera chose to introduce us to their home of the Northern Islands with a traditional song and dance at this past summer’s New Scholar Orientation.


Scholar, Regina-Mae Dominguez, gave the EXITO community an amazing elevator pitch on the culminating day of our week-long New Scholar Orientation.


The third cohort of Scholars just completed their first year in EXITO, and were placed in their Research Learning Communities this summer. These Scholars are still settling into their 18-month research placement and meet twice a week to reflect on their experiences and learn more about how to ensure success as they pursue their research pathway through hands-on research experience. Labs, which are established at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), PSU, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Guam, and University of Hawaii, conduct research on a variety of topics and disciplines.


One activity for Scholars was the Sharing History through Active Reminiscence and Photo-Imagery Pilot Program, led by EXITO Research Mentor Raina Croff, Ph.D.Students worked with the older adult African American community using historical images on cell phones during group walks. This activity was intended to engage older adults in conversational reminiscence of living and working in Portland’s historically Black neighborhoods before, during, and after gentrification.


Scholars played an integral role in day-to-day implementation of the program by conducting quantitative and qualitative data analysis from participant cognitive feedback and historical narrative. In the Stedman Lab, led by EXITO Research Mentor Ken Stedman, Ph.D, Scholars focused on viruses, primarily members of the Archaea domain, which live in extreme environments. Scholars were immersed in research to understand the structure and sequence of these viruses to inform advancements in vaccine formulation.



Scholars Mark Sanchez, Teala Alvord, and Phuc Nguyen engage in a meeting with their Research Mentor, Lisa Marriot. Together, the Scholars are working on developing a sun-sensitivity measure that utilizes culturally neutral language.


The second cohort spent the summer in the BUILD EXITO Summer Immersion program, working in their Research Learning Communities and attending workshops twice a week where they read relevant research articles, discussed their research experience, and worked on their science communication skills. These summer workshops have been impactful in Scholars’ preparation for the presentation of their research at the Annual BUILD EXITO Summer Research Symposium at the end of September, when Scholars will present for five minutes and then take questions from audience members. For many, this symposium marks an important milestone as the first time they present to a group about their own research, and may serve as a turning point where students really begin to identify themselves as researchers.


And finally, the first cohort are now EXITO alumni. They spent the summer in a variety of ways including relocating for graduate school, getting married, beginning new jobs at OHSU or PSU, and more!