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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

AvenueB guides transfer students within biological sciences toward success

Funding by Genentech Foundation creates new program for transfer students 

The Genentech Foundation awarded the College of Biological Sciences $2.5 million, the largest single grant the college has ever recieved, to fund a new program aimed at boosting opportunities for students transferring to UC Davis. This program, AvenueB, will provide financial support and preparatory programs for community college students studying biological sciences. Ten selected students will start the program this fall, said Beth Broome, the senior advisor to the provost.

AvenueB aims to reduce the ‘transfer maze,’ those challenges specific to community college transfer students. Issues regarding coordinating class requirements, units and fees can delay a transfer student’s road to success, resulting in extra costs. Students transferring from community colleges to UC campuses may pay $36,000 more in tuition and fees than students who enter as freshmen, according to the Campaign for College Opportunity

“High-potential, low-resource students and first-generation college students” will be served through AvenueB, said Carla Boragno, the board chair of the Genentech Foundation, via email. 

The program also hopes to remove barriers and boost participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM, according to Boragno. 

Through AvenueB, transfer students will receive many helpful services to ease their transition, as well as provide them with new professional opportunities. The amount of aid each student receives will be based on a model that describes where community college transfer students typically struggle, Broome said.

“Most often, it’s not academic, it’s other issues that arise,” Broome said. “We want to begin to put measures and supports in place so that students can overcome those obstacles to have a kind of safety net, so we can help them successfully graduate from UC Davis.”

The funding provided by the Genentech Foundation will carry over five years. UC Davis has a duty to raise money to help sustain the program in years four and five, said Shari Kawelo, the executive director of development for the College of Biological Sciences, via email.  

“The university needs to put in some funds as well,” said Mark Winey, the dean of the College of Biological Sciences. “And we do have a proposal out there for some additional funding for the program, but the initial launch of the program is mostly funded by the Genentech Foundation.”

Students will have access to an intensive preparatory program prior to entering their final year at community college, as well as a summer bridge program before their first quarter at UC Davis. Financial support, specialized advising and access to exclusive internships will be available to these students during their time at UC Davis. 

“In addition to financial support, students can participate in social and academic opportunities that foster peer-to-peer learning, community building and career exploration over the duration of their time at UC Davis,” Boragno said.

Through opportunities provided by AvenueB, the program fits in with the College of Biological Sciences’ goal of offering many hands-on experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, Winey said. 

“The goal for us is not only student success in terms of your first step in your career or your next step in your academic history, but also reducing student debt,” Broome said. 

The initial implementation of AvenueB will have a “rolling start” — UC Davis will select one community college to partner with and select students from, Winey said. Then, the program will expand out to work with multiple community colleges across California. The program will start with around 10 transfer students and will grow to add 20 or more a year. 

“I think, in its final form, the students would be prospective students with the expectation that they would apply to and get accepted in Davis,” Winey said. 

Future goals for transfer students within the program would be to do well in their studies  at UC Davis, continue on to earning advanced degrees or land in well-paying jobs at biotech companies, according to Winey.

“[AvenueB] really is a career development program, so the preparation students will get towards careers in the life sciences and health professions are why we are excited about it,” Winey said. 

AvenueB is modeled after AvenueE, a similar program for transfer students in the College of Engineering. Funded in 2016 in partnership with Chevron, the Koret Foundation and the Office of the Provost STEM Strategies, AvenueE aims to eliminate similar gaps that transfer students face in the engineering field. 

The Genentech Foundation was first interested in funding this program after a member heard Broome give a talk about AvenueE. Winey was asked to go to South San Francisco to teach the Foundation more about Avenue E and how a similar program could be created for the College of Biological Sciences.

Since UC Davis is one of the top five recruiting campuses for Genentech and because UC Davis has well-over 1,200 alumni employed by the company, it makes sense why Genentech was interested in the program, Kawelo explained. 

“Genentech is a major biotech employer and they are interested in ensuring that there’s a strong pipeline of future employees in the biotech field for them and for the entire industry, which is so strong in Northern California,” Winey said. 

In addition to providing funding, the Genentech Foundation will likely have a representative serve on the advisory board that will be created for AvenueB, Kawelo said. 

“I’m sure our strategic engagement with Genentech will increase due to this major support,” Kawelo said. 

During their partnership with UC Davis, the Genentech Foundation also looks forward to exploring new opportunities for Genentech employees to engage with students. Through tours, mentorship and other industry experiences, Boragno said she hopes students will get insight into the real-world application of life science studies.

“UC Davis is home to a vibrant, diverse student population, and we are proud to be a catalyst for AvenueB through our support, which is the first grant the Foundation has awarded to UC Davis and the college’s single largest grant received to date,” Boragno said. 

AvenueB and AvenueE are an extension of the commitment UC Davis has made to serve the students of California, Broome said. 

“When we look at the universe of students, we’re looking at those that are traditionally underserved in a particular stem discipline,” Broome said. “It’s really a win-win for the university and the student, because it allows us to give those students that are most at risk, a little bit of an extra boost. The cash rewards that students often get often make the difference between whether or not they can come to Davis.” 

Written by: Margo Rosenbaum — science@theaggie.org


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