Spotlight On: Rosalind Franklin University

Rosalind Franklin University

Just north of the Gorter Family Foundation’s office, in the North Chicago community, sits Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science—Lake County’s only health sciences institution of higher education. RFU has gained recognition as a premier interprofessional health sciences university, with five colleges and more than 30 graduate health and science programs housed on its campus. But it’s the way that the university has prioritized the health and education of its local community that has captured GFF’s time and attention.

RFU launched the INfluence Student Potential and Increase Representation in Education (INSPIRE) Summer Research Program in 2011 to improve college and career readiness of Latino students in North Chicago and Waukegan. Since then, the INSPIRE program has evolved into a nationally-recognized summer mentoring and applied research initiative that is increasing opportunities for Latino high school students in Lake County’s underserved communities and is “inspiring” the next generation of scientists and researchers.

INSPIRE students work (and get paid for) 28 hours a week for eight weeks, during summer break, in RFU’s labs conducting hands-on biomedical research under the guidance of a graduate student mentor and a faculty advisor. To be accepted into the program, students have to maintain a 3.0 or higher grade point average; be interested in a future science or health profession career; and be committed (both students and parents) to the program with intention to return each summer until college completion and pursue a post-graduate education in health sciences.

The INSPIRE program provides its students with invaluable academic guidance and support, workforce experience and career exploration, life skills and family engagement. RFU’s long-term program goal is to increase the number of qualified students from underserved populations completing advanced-degree health programs. In turn, these students are more likely to return home after completing their studies and, as practicing health professionals, be well-positioned to help increase access to and the quality of health care in their local community.
This year, RFU is expanding the program through a new Science Saturdays initiative that will be focused on a math- and science-based curriculum. Science  Saturdays will be held throughout the school year and will be open to both INSPIRE and non-INSPIRE students from North Chicago, Waukegan and Round Lake.

RFU is also motivating next generation scientists through its Summer Research Fellows collaboration with Lake Forest College. This program, which has been in place since 2009, is an opportunity for LFC science majors to support their academic goals, foster their interest in science careers and get involved with biomedical or life science research training at RFU. The students conduct paid research during the summer alongside the university’s research faculty and graduate students, which provides them significant exposure to the ins and outs of a scientific research lab.
RFU INSPIRE Success Story:

Oscar Hernandez joined the INSPIRE program in 2011 as a rising sophomore at Waukegan High School. After his 2013 graduation, Oscar attended Lake Forest College, where he majored in Sociology and Anthropology and minored in Islamic World Studies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2017, with a 3.29 grade point average, and then returned to RFU as a full-time administrative assistant in the Resuscitation Institute. Oscar then decided to pursue a master’s degree. With guidance and support from the INSPIRE program, he was accepted into RFU’s Master of Science in Population Health degree program. Oscar is currently taking classes toward this degree, which is designed to prepare students for jobs in the public health and population health industry and in organizations that want to improve the health and well-being of their employees.

RFU By the Numbers: 

13 high school and
6 college Latino
students participated
in the INSPIRE
in 2018

76% of INSPIRE
students improved
or maintained their science GPA

100% of INSPIRE’s graduating high school students have entered
a college degree program

19 LFC students participated in the Summer Research
Fellows Program in
2018; a total of
89 have participated since 2009

Since 2009,
6 Summer Research Fellows Students have earned medical degrees, 8 students are completing PhD programs and 2 are working at RFU labs

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