Date July 20, 2023
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Leadership Alliance continues legacy of expanding research pathways and workforce opportunities

Seventy undergraduates from across the U.S. are engaging in research at Brown this summer through the Leadership Alliance, a nationwide consortium originally founded at the University in 1992.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — After spending nearly a year working for Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, rising Brown University junior Mia Reiland knew she wanted to make an impact in the field of legal services for Native Americans.

To help set her on that path, Reiland applied to the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program, which provides research opportunities at leading colleges and universities with a focus on reaching students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in research fields and higher education.

This summer, she is among 400 students from schools across the country participating in Leadership Alliance programs, where they are conducting research and exploring pathways to doctoral degrees and research careers in academia, the public sector and industry.

Founded at Brown in 1992, the Leadership Alliance has grown into a consortium of over 30 institutions nationally — from Brown to Harvard University to the University of Miami to historically Black colleges and universities such as Tougaloo College and Morehouse College.

Mia Reiland
Brown student Mia Reiland is at Columbia University this summer as part of the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program. 

Reiland is participating in Columbia University’s cohort of the Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program in New York, where she is engaged in a research project through Columbia’s history department studying Indigenous migration patterns to cities, with a focus on Indigenous communities in Dallas and Minneapolis.

“I had really enjoyed the research aspect of my work at the Legal Aid, and the work I’m doing at Columbia allows me to take those skills but apply them to a new topic,” said Reiland, who is concentrating in urban studies and sociology at Brown.

Leadership Alliance participants engage in research across all disciplines, including biomedical engineering, environmental science, social sciences, ecology and evolutionary biology and more — all while learning about graduate studies, research careers and strategies to successfully apply to graduate school programs, according to Samantha Andersen, the Leadership Alliance’s coordinator of undergraduate programs.

“The Leadership Alliance really allows students to build both personal and professional connections with their faculty mentors and other students within the program,” Andersen said.

Originally established by Vartan Gregorian, who served as Brown’s president from 1989 to 1997, the Leadership Alliance’s executive office is still housed at Brown. And the University has the largest cohort of any participating institution, welcoming 70 students to campus this summer from 50 different U.S. colleges and universities for the nine-week summer program, Andersen said.

The students in the cohort include Halle Nwanne, a rising senior at Georgia State University studying biomedical sciences and enterprise. At Brown, she is working in a campus laboratory studying molecular microbiology.

“It has pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” Nwanne said. “I’m learning how to grow and manipulate bacteria cultures.”

To create research opportunities for Leadership Alliance participants at Brown, the University collaborates with 65 faculty and researchers to identify projects for which there is capacity for mentorship and additional researchers: “We have a lot of departments that are excited about offering summer internships to students external to the University,” Andersen said.

Opening doors to research, careers

Thousands of students apply each year to the Leadership Alliance’s Summer Research Early Identification Program, a nine-week program that also provides housing and transportation costs, all funded through annual dues from member institutions, institutional funding and support, federal and private grants, and individual and organizational gifts, Andersen said.

When a student is admitted to the program, their host school pairs them with a research mentor working in their area of interest. In addition to the summer experience, the Leadership Alliance also offers a Virtual Professional Development Series that all undergraduate students can access, Andersen said.

For Reiland, she has enjoyed spending her days at Columbia engaging in research, followed by evening sessions that promote skill development, such as how to write an abstract or cover letter in preparation for pursuing graduate school opportunities.

“We get a nice sense of independence with our research work while also getting a chance to interact with other students on different projects than ours,” Reiland said. “It’s a great combination.”

A self-described introvert, Nwanne has been pushed out of her comfort zone socially at Brown this summer. She was hesitant about journeying to a new city and a different campus, but she has been pleasantly surprised by the experience.

“Being in this cohort of students was nerve-wracking at first, but I feel like I’ve found my circle of people here,” Nwanne said. 

As Reiland and Nwanne reflect on their experiences, they are both excited about the possibility of pursuing graduate studies and doctoral programs in the future.

“I chose to participate in this program to really explore those opportunities and interact with people who have gone down those same paths,” Nwanne said.

All of the Summer 2023 Leadership Alliance Summer Research Early Identification Program participants will have the chance to interact with cohort members from across the country at the end of July at the Leadership Alliance National Symposium in Hartford, Connecticut, where they will present their summer research and partake in more professional development opportunities.

“The connection between members is one of the greatest benefits of the program,” Andersen said. “Everyone’s so supportive of each other and their future goals.”