ACCESS Testimonials

 ACCESS Scholars Testimonials

ACCESS Class of 2018

The ACCESS program opened my eyes to the interconnected nature of all aspects of STEM and some humanities. This encouraged me to broaden my understanding of STEM concepts by taking a multidisciplinary view and by examining the same topic from many different perspectives. Aside from opening my eyes in an academic setting, ACCESS also connected me with a network of intelligent women in STEM who I am fortunate to have met.


The opportunity to meet strong-minded and dedicated women in STEM disciplines was so empowering. Amazing friendships were gained, class was intriguing every day, and the opportunity to explore various STEM majors was invaluable.


One of the most rewarding [elements of ACCESS] was engaging with a community of other young women, both inside and out of the classroom. I found that I could engage in enthusiastic discussions about classroom projects with my peers. I think that our mutual excitement, when it comes to science-related topics, really brought us together as a community and created a supporting group of friends who also understand some of the unforeseen challenges that come with studying science as a woman. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to women who are members of the science or engineering faculty… hearing from them in class on the diversity of topics they study and getting advice from them one on one really strengthened my interest in many STEM disciplines. Ultimately, this exposure led me to realize I wanted to change my major to one I hadn't even considered going into ACCESS.


I really enjoyed getting a head start on my education at the U. It gave me time to adjust to becoming a college student and understand what it means to be totally in charge of my own education. It really helped me look at what I would like to do in the future and I made so many new life-long friends.


ACCESS Class of 2017

As a first-generation student, the [ACCESS] summer program helped me integrate more easily into college life and provided me with an incredible support system.


My research experience helped me to appreciate how science is used in the real-world, and helped me to step out of my comfort zone and explore areas I never would have thought of.


ACCESS Class of 2011

For my ACCESS research experience, I worked in an astronomy lab which mostly meant teaching myself how to program. After spending the better part of a month fixing a bug in my code, I thought there must be a better way! I started taking computer science classes, and I've been looking for better ways to write code ever since. I'm now pursuing a PhD in computer science and love it. I'm not sure I would have found my way here if I hadn't started working in that astronomy lab as a freshman, so thank you ACCESS!


ACCESS Class of 2010

Without ACCESS I probably would never have entered and remained in the field of engineering! At times it was difficult to attend classes with so few women or work in a male dominated field. ACCESS showed me that there were many other like-minded, strong, and intelligent women who were also passionate about science and engineering, and that I was not alone in my pursuits!


There are many opportunities that have had tremendous impact on my life… but the ACCESS Program was and is one of the most influential. The program, which introduced different perspectives and sides of the sciences in a very hands-on way, has helped inquisitive minds develop skills essential for success in STEM. I gained lifelong friendships with my fellow classmates and an even greater support network. I've never felt isolated being a woman in STEM. I've learned to find value in myself as a scientist and in others.


ACCESS Class of 2008

My research focuses on developing and utilizing biophysical analyses to establish the complex molecular pathways in immune and epithelial cell biology (PhD candidate, Rice University). ACCESS was the perfect foundation I needed to succeed as a woman in STEM.


ACCESS Class of 2006

I'm so grateful to ACCESS for the start it gave me. I never thought I would become a geologist. I started out as a physics major and quickly realized it wasn't for me. My academic success all started with ACCESS and especially with exposure to research during my first-year of college, without which I would not have gotten a position in an environmental engineering lab. This introduction changed my academic goals and set me on path for my future career. I graduated from the University of Utah with degrees in Geology and Geological Engineering and went on to become an NSF Fellow at the Ohio State University, where I graduated with a Master's degree in Geochemistry.


I graduated with Mathematics and Biology degrees from the U, earned a PhD in biology at the University of Washington, and started working in science policy. I have worked as an Associate Program Officer at the National Academies of Sciences, and currently am a AAAS Fellow, in a congressional office. It all started in ACCESS, a program that changed the course of my education and life.


ACCESS Class of 2002

I'm very grateful to the ACCESS program. I think the biggest thing I learned is that women are often doing much better than they think. During the ACCESS physics module, the instructor told us how females will get Bs, and think they are failing and drop out of the sciences. While males, in the same courses, will get Cs and think they are doing awesome!


ACCESS Class of 1997

I want to applaud the existence of programs like ACCESS and the strong individuals who put tremendous effort and patience into their coordination. If equal representation and continued innovation are of true concerns, these programs and their coordinators demand the utmost respect and investment.


History of ACCESS

Originally named the ACCESS Program for Women in Science and Mathematics, ACCESS was established in 1991, with a goal of priming undergraduate women for academic and career success in science disciplines. 

ACCESS was created when Dr. Hugo Rossi, Dean of the University of Utah College of Science (91’) and world-renowned mathematician, was inspired by a group of Utah women in STEM careers, and studies that found that women in science had fewer opportunities than men at the time, especially in Utah. In hopes of addressing this inequity, Dr. Rossi submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the creation of a University of Utah program to support young women interested in studying science and mathematics.

Thanks to the work of Dr. Rossi and numerous collaborators, including Carolyn Connell, Colleen Kennedy, Richard Steiner, Jacquelyn Stonebraker, and Christopher Johnson, the NSF proposal was approved and the ACCESS Program for Women in Science and Mathematics was founded. NSF funding for the program ended in 1993, but through support from the University, our community, and private donors, ACCESS continues to thrive and evolve.

The first ACCESS class (‘91) consisted of 20 science students. Since then, each year the ACCESS award has supported an average of 33 students each year. The ACCESS alumni network continues to grow and is now over 800 strong.

The program was re-envisioned in 2018 in response to changing demographic demands and under new directorship. This included establishing partnerships with the College of Engineering, the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, and the Department of Communications. This One U model broadens recruiting efforts and helps students to inform their academic and professional goals at the earliest possible stage in their undergraduate education. 

In addition, the program now begins with a new (2018) ACCESS exclusive summer course, Science in a Changing World (SCI 3000). The curriculum in this “STEAM” (STEM with integration of arts and humanities) based course affords students with an opportunity to consider and learn about global policy, communication, and STEM. Research faculty and graduate students from the Colleges of Science, Mines & Earth Sciences, and Engineering, as well as an array of campus and community program representatives participate in instruction.    

Changes to the summer curriculum have made it possible to offer the ACCESS award to college transfer students for the first time in its 30-year history. This was a critical change as transfer students represent approximately 30% of the University of Utah undergraduate population (based on 2018 data). 

In 2021, the ACCESS Program rebranded as “ACCESS Scholars” to more accurately reflect the program’s values of excellence, leadership, and belonging. Most ACCESS students give back to the student community, make research and engagement a signature part of their undergraduate experience, and go onto graduate and professional schools after graduation. As “ACCESS Scholars” students will readily identify the program as a distinguishing opportunity that recognizes excellence but also encourages and rewards future mentorship. 

As time passes, the ACCESS program will continue to adapt to best suit the needs of the scientific, engineering, and University of Utah communities. ACCESS works for students today, and the workforce of tomorrow, with a vision of greater community and accessibility across STEM fields.

ACCESS Scholars Application

Applying for ACCESS Scholars

The College of Science ACCESS Scholars is a first-year community, research and scholarship program for students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Who is eligible?

  • First-year and transfer students majoring in the College of Science

How ACCESS students are selected:

A team of STEM faculty and administrators evaluates each applicant using a holistic review process that considers application essays, extracurricular experiences, high school course load and rigor, a letter of recommendation, and GPA.

Your ACCESS Application Must Include:

Questions about ACCESS or the application process?

Email ACCESS Program Manager, Sam Shaw at