iDigTRIO 2024

The sixth annual iDigTRIO conference took place February 19-24, 2024. The goal of iDigTRIO is to broaden the network of people, resources, and opportunities available to pre-collegiate and college students, with particular outreach to “low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities”, per the Federal TRIO program guidelines. The event was timed to coincide with National TRIO Day, February 24, when TRIO programs around the country highlight and celebrate work enabled by TRIO. This year, we hosted in-person and virtual mentoring opportunities in the first part of the week and a virtual conference on Friday and Saturday. Mentoring opportunities were hosted by University of Florida faculty and staff and spanned the biological sciences. The conference days included speakers representing various career stages and paths, different fields of research, and a host of college- and graduate-level opportunities.

Day 1 of the conference started with a warm welcome and history of iDigTRIO from Dr. Angeleah Browdy, conference co-organizer and Director, Office of Academic Support, Promise and UFSSS. Dr. Ayana McCoy of Wellesley College followed, and her presentation demonstrated a commitment to academia that brought her to several different states on her path from marine scientist to academic leadership and the strong professional network she built along the way. Dr. Irene Avila, of the National Institutes of Health, shared her career growth from community college to her current position as Special Assistant to the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD), emphasizing that a community college start can lead to great opportunities. Barbara Sousa, of UF, spoke about the importance of getting involved with research early in your academic career and the benefits it provides in the long run. Next up was Community Connect: A Resource Roundup, featuring speakers from several UF programs: UF Career Connections Center, UF Veterinary Medicine, and UF Agricultural and Life Sciences. Workshop breakout rooms gave participants a chance to discuss issues amongst themselves and with experienced professionals. Day 1 wrapped up with Dr. Samesha Barnes, conference co-organizer and Director of the McNair Scholars Program and the Thrive Center, providing a recap of the day and setting the stage for Day 2. Special thanks to Elizabeth Lunior for her expert moderating of the day’s sessions.

Day 2 followed a similar format with an opening welcome from Dr. Libby Ellwood, iDigBio Director of Education and Outreach, in which she discussed ways that we can take TRIO values with us throughout the year, not just on National TRIO Day. The day began with part two of Community Connect: A Resource Roundup which featured speakers from Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, UF Teach, and the Thompson Earth Systems Institute. Jamarcus Robertson, a PhD student at the University of Chicago was the first speaker. His presentation focused on building a mentor network, which included tips on finding and maintaining mentors throughout your career. David Levering, Science Educator at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, is innovating science education for all, in both in-person and virtual spaces, and shared ways we can get involved. Dena Nufio-Smith's journey to the National Science Foundation via paleontology was equally heartwarming and motivating as she candidly brought the audience along her path to success. The UF SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) group shared profiles of students from Central and South America and their inspirational paths to science at UF. Antonia Robinson, conference co-organizer and Assistant Director Office of Academic Support and iDigTRIO technical expert, wrapped up the conference with unifying words of encouragement. Thanks to Sadie Mills, conference co-organizer and Program Coordinator of TESI, for her creative and insightful session moderation.

A huge thank you to all of our speakers, organizers, and supporters! This conference would not have been possible without the shared expertise and experience of the above-named individuals as well as the tremendous planning efforts of Shyla Davison, iDigBio Education and Outreach Coordinator, and Muata Kamdibe, Assistant Director Office of Academic Support. Recordings of the conference will be linked from We look forward to seeing you in 2025. Keep your eyes on as well as iDigBio social media for conference updates.