As a casual observer in the back of the room, you spot a full audience mimicking the arm motions of a chimpanzee. What a bizarre sight, right? Sights such as these are common during the Organization for Cultural Diversity in Chemistry (OCDC) community college outreach days. This particular audience was listening to a research talk given by a UCLA undergraduate student conducting research on spinal cord injury and therapy. What makes this student even more impressive is the fact that he was a community college student and transferred to UCLA just two years before. Stories such as these continue to inspire OCDC to host these quarterly outreach days.
The OCDC community college outreach day starts with loading a bus full of students from a local community college and transporting them to the UCLA campus. Upon their arrival, the students are immersed in a community of support from the undergraduate and graduate students. The day begins with guest speakers from the Center for Community College Partnerships (CCCP), who give an interactive and informative presentation on the transfer process. Following CCCP, two UCLA undergraduates present their current research, such as the one mentioned above. These presentations not only give the students a taste of research but also introduce them to the funding opportunities available at UCLA for undergraduate research. We then host a lunch and subsequent Q&A panel where everyone gets a chance to socialize and ask questions, such as: what is it like to be a graduate student? How do you support yourself through so much school? Bringing the program to closure, we conduct laboratory tours of the chemistry & biochemistry research facilities, even sneaking in a fun demo or two during the tour.
This 2014 school year has been unprecedentedly successful for OCDC. We have hosted three community colleges: College of the Canyons (COC), Pasadena City College (PCC) and Los Angeles Mission College. What sets our program apart form the others is, following these outreach days, we encourage and support the community college students to give back to their communities. Currently we are developing demos that the community college students can perform at their local elementary schools, giving them the training and opportunity needed to take leadership in their own communities and continue to “pay it forward” with their own outreach.
OCDC executive board
OCDC Mission Statement:
The Organization for Cultural Diversity in Chemistry (OCDC) is a group of graduate students with a vision and passion to lead and promote diversity in the sciences. Our purpose is to provide an all-inclusive community of highly educated individuals to advance through the pipeline to influential positions in industry and academia in the sciences while simultaneously mentoring the younger generation of underrepresented minorities. Through our partnership with Procter & Gamble, OCDC provides invaluable networking opportunities through our student-organized diversity seminars. We continue to build scale within our UCLA chapter by implementing innovative and sustainable outreach programs spanning k-12 to graduate level education while maintaining excellence in our research careers.