The Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research (SOARS) program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), was established in 1996 and provides summer internship experiences to minorities and women to enhance the professional development of students from underrepresented groups in atmospheric and related sciences. Participants complete a research project and report their findings to the UCAR community. SOARS also provides up to two years of support for graduate education at UCAR-affiliated universities. Since 1996, SOARS has included 61 student participants, of whom 70.5% are female, 29.5% are male; the underrepresented ethnic groups include African-American (38%,), Chicano/Hispanic/Latino (34%), and American Indian (16%), with additional participants who are Euro-American (8%) and Asian-American (3%). The program provides mentoring and support of students during critical transitions - from 11th and 12th grades through graduate degrees and has achieved a retention rate of 80%.
SOARS attributes its success to a highly structured mentoring program. During the summer program, SOARS participants work with mentors in well-defined and well-documented relationships that include support in selecting and engaging in a research program, attending scientific seminars at the National Corporation for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and local research institutions, a program in science writing, and presenting the outcomes of their research at a colloquium. During the academic year, mentoring continues through advisory contact and through financial support. Advisors provide guidance on academic and personal development, graduate school applications, and education and career opportunities. Financial support includes up to 50% of costs for two years of graduate school and for travel to professional society meetings to give presentations.
SOARS demonstrates long institutional commitment with broad-based participation from more than 40 UCAR universities.