STILLWATER — While he was an undergraduate at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., Gilbert John learned the impact a good faculty mentor can have on a student.
Now a professor at Oklahoma State University, John is working to connect his students with the same kind of mentorship that he received.
John, a microbiology and molecular genetics professor, is overseeing a new program at OSU that works with American Indian students who are pursuing doctoral degrees in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math.
The program, called Science Scholars: The Native American Path, is funded by a $40,000 grant from the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.
The society has committed to fund the OSU program for the next two years.
John, a Navajo, grew up on a reservation in New Mexico.
When he got to Colorado State, he worked with a professor named Robert Ellis, who had grown up near the Wind River Indian Reservation in western Wyoming.
Ellis told John about playing basketball with children from the reservation when he was a boy.
“These types of stories really set me at ease with him,” John said.
After John graduated with a bachelor's degree in microbiology, he stayed at Colorado State for graduate school and worked in Ellis' lab.
Through the OSU program, John hopes to connect American Indian students there with faculty mentors like the one he had.
The program provides funding for students to give presentations at the society's national conference, held annually in different cities nationwide.
This year's conference will be held in October in San Antonio.