Web Site Review: Just Garcia Hill

Just Garcia Hill (JGH) is an online network for minorities in the biological sciences. The organization is named after three pioneering minority scientists: Ernest Everett Just, Rosa Minoka Hill, and Fabian Garcia (see box below). The organization's goals are to increase the representation of minority scientists in biology and to improve the well-being of minority communities.

The JGH site is a valuable tool for aspiring minority scientists and their advocates because of its wealth of information and resources. Moreover, JGH is aligned with many of the prominent professional societies in the biological sciences, as well as advocate organizations that seek to promote minority participation in the sciences. Among other things, the site features opinion polls, job listings, internships, and career information.

Most of these resources are accessible to members as well as nonmembers. Membership, which is free, is available to minorities in the biological sciences and to anyone who is committed to increasing their representation. Nonmembers (i.e., those who chose not to deposit personal contact information in the JGH registrants' database) lack access to view and submit resumes and participate in discussions. To register, users must enter standard personal and contact information as well as their ethnicity. When registering, new members can also choose whether they would like to be listed as mentors or mentees and whether they wish to participate as speakers or reviewers on behalf of the organization.

The Pioneers

African-American biologist Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941) established a unified approach to genetics, cytology, and embryology to support biological research, including signal transduction. His research in developmental biology brought him fame in Europe, despite the racism and segregation that prohibited him from joining the research establishment at home in the United States.

Rosa Minoka Hill (1875-1952) was the second Native American woman to become a medical doctor in the United States. She spent her first 5 professional years caring for poor women and children at the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia. After moving west, she selflessly served both the rural poor Indian and white communities of Oneida, Wisconsin, for 40 years.

Fabian Garcia (1871-1948) was a Chicano agronomist who bioengineered several food crops--including the chili pepper--that have transformed the southwest into a global agricultural powerhouse. He left his estate to New Mexico State University to help Chicanos.

JGH is fulfilling its mission by using the data it gathers from registered members to track the science career path of minority users and to compile and analyze career trends for the group. Among the site's best features is Progress, an online magazine that uses forums to encourage online discussions of its articles. Previously published articles include "Is It Time to Hold Academia Accountable?" and "Is There a White Male Advantage in Academia Today?" Other topics addressed include academic issues, lifestyle, research, history, and philosophy--all with a minority focus. The online magazine also profiles minority scientists, offers career advice, and provides access to back issues.

The JGH site uses an appealing and relevant style throughout, with powerful yet simple messages that "promote networking, inspire collaboration, and disseminate relevant information" to combat minority underrepresentation. Navigation is intuitive and functional. The photographs add a welcome personal touch, while graphics direct the user to the underlying messages without distracting from the primary mission of the site.

The JGH site is effective because of the clarity of its mission. However, despite its great potential, the site's most glaring weakness is its newness, which is particularly obvious in its lack of content in the job search and member-profile areas. This will likely change as the site content increases in volume and the membership database increases in depth. Although the site is new, it has the potential to become a primary support network for minorities in the biological sciences.

The JGH site should achieve its lofty goals because it establishes an excellent rapport with its target audience. The site is probably compelling enough to attract minority students into pursuing science careers--it's that good.

Clinton Parks writes for MiSciNet from Virginia. For more information, please send e-mail to CRParks3@aol.com.

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