Instars is a continuing program within the Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) that seeks to increase diversity and inclusivity within the freshwater sciences. Launched at the SFS Annual Meeting in 2011, Instars serves underrepresented minority (URM) undergraduate participants (i.e., Instars Fellows) by helping them develop scientific identity and a sense of shared values.
The Instars program creates a support network of undergraduate peers and graduate student Mentors to help first-time attendees navigate the Annual Meeting, provides daily opportunities for Fellows to meet and converse with prominent freshwater scientists, and ensures that Fellows have the opportunity to present undergraduate research. Instars also fills a pressing need for many Fellows who are interested in graduate-level research, but lack financial resources to travel for campus visits; by providing a wealth of information on freshwater graduate programs in a single location and immediate access to faculty from many of these programs, Instars has helped numerous Fellows secure graduate positions.
Overall, the Instars program has been successful in helping the freshwater science community become a more inclusive one. In a recent survey of past Instars participants (2011-2018), 61% of respondents reported that they ultimately pursued graduate study, 52% reported that they are currently involved in freshwater science at a professional level, and 90% reported that Instars had a positive influence on their career choices and development.
The new Emerge program builds upon the core strengths of the current Instars program. Emerge will continue to engage URM students in multiple activities at the SFS Annual Meeting while complimenting those activities with a series of mid-year training and networking functions to further promote scientific integration. Emerge will also provide a heightened sense of continuity and community for URM students as they progress from undergraduate studies to the next ‘life stages’ of their graduate student and early career roles, by offering expanded funding to program alums who choose to return as mentors. Each of the Emerge activities will include a mix of undergraduate, graduate, and early career individuals. This continuity will ensure that undergraduate participants benefit from a diversity of mentoring perspectives, while providing new incentives for alums to remain actively involved in the program throughout their careers.