Entry Point!, a signature program of the AAAS Project on Science, Technology and Disability, is a national effort to discover and develop talent among undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who demonstrated a talent and interest in pursuing a STEM career. The primary goal of the project is to increase the diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce at the professional level. Entry Point! recruits, screens, and refers qualified candidates to company and university research program partners for 10-week summer internships.
Building the workforce of tomorrow requires an investment in diversity today.
Different groups offer unique backgrounds and lifestyles that contribute to a creative and dynamic scientific enterprise in the United States. True diversity involves including not only underrepresented groups such as women, minorities and LGBTQ professionals, but also professionals with disabilities. Entry Point! promotes this goal by connecting workplace partners with student interns who have disabilities.
Students with disabilities are often natural scientists who use experimentation and creativity in their everyday lives. They frequently use “outside the box” thinking to find inventive solutions to daily challenges. Entry Point! recruits and places 20 to 25 of these problem solvers each year.
The AAAS Entry Point! program was created in response to the realization that students with disabilities, even those with strong academic records, were not being noticed as part of the talent pool for STEM employment. AAAS understands that internships are credible paths to competitive and sustained employment. They can be a mechanism for talented students with disabilities to participate in laboratory work, data analysis and other research activities with companies, government agencies and university research programs.
More than 600 individuals have interned through Entry Point! since its inception in 1996. Follow-up indicates that 85% of alumni are now working as scientists and engineers who have inspired new ideas, supported innovation and advanced new research. This is an astoundingly high success rate for a scientific fellowship program. The students’ successes prove their abilities to compete and contribute alongside their peers who do not have disabilities.
How it works
Entry Point! provides a wide, national recruitment and screening effort to discover outstanding students with disabilities. Each year, it develops new pools of candidates with the technical knowledge and skills that Entry Point! partners desire. Qualified candidate referrals are sent to workplace partners to make the final hiring decisions. Interns and their managers at partner sites receive support during the program as well as post-placement follow-up and mentoring.
Including diverse perspectives and lifestyles in the workplace helps innovators see the world differently, which can inspire new science and engineering ideas and contribute to a flourishing economy. Entry Point! is not only a good investment, but it is also a critical one for the future of continued scientific advancement.