Guided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) mission “to ensure the health, productivity, independence, and well-being of all people,” demographic research provides foundational information about the health and well-being of individuals, families and groups, and the changing composition of the broader populations that they comprise. This research sheds light on the large-scale patterns and processes that shape our world and the individuals living in it. Students trained in population science are well-equipped to pursue careers across academic, government, and applied research settings, where they can work toward enhancing human health, development and well-being.
While the field of population research has continued to grow in numbers, there remains a striking lack of racial and ethnic diversity among scholars of population. To expand demographic training for undergraduates, we are developing a brief but intensive, collaborative summer program that uses pressing contemporary issues as a lens for studying population composition and change, for example, on race and income inequality, health disparities, immigration, and family change.
Funded by an NICHD R25 grant (#HD105602), this new initiative aims to increase the diversity of the population field and nurture the next generation of population scientists. NextGenPop will be coordinated by a new consortium of 27 population research centers from universities across the U.S. and will be closely linked with and administratively supported by the Population Association of America (PAA).
The program will include two weeks of in-person programming on campus over the summer. The summer residential experience will be supplemented by subsequent virtual components focused on research and professional development, as well as opportunities for mentorship and networking at the PAA annual meetings. Across the five host universities, Wisconsin, Cornell, Duke, California, Irvine, and Minnesota, common core content on population perspectives, research methods, and professional development will be covered each summer, along with material that reflects cutting-edge research themes and expertise at each host institution.
A hands-on research component will be integral to the program, including faculty-student research collaborations and small-group tutorials. In addition to faculty, the program will draw in and support graduate students and postdocs in mentoring roles with program participants, providing critical training opportunities to graduate and postdoctoral affiliates and extending the reach of the program.