Building Diverse Futures for STEM

Portland State’s BUILD EXITO program receives $400,000 to expand support services for scholars impacted by COVID-19

February 10, 2021 -- PSU announced today that the BUILD EXITO program will receive $400,000 in funding from the Genentech Foundation for its Pathways Leading to Uninterrupted Success (PLUS) project. The project is one of 40 programs nationwide to receive funding from Genentech and the Genentech Foundation designed to help break down systemic barriers facing Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) in education and healthcare.

“We believe that increasing access to careers in science and medicine can have an exponential impact on students, their families, and the communities they live in. As such, we are honored to partner with essential leaders in this space that are dismantling systemic barriers in science and medical education,” said Carla Boragno, Board Chair, The Genentech Foundation & Genentech Senior Vice President and Global Head of Engineering and Facilities.

The goal of PLUS is to provide continuity in the academic progress and research training of BIPOC scholars in the BUILD EXITO program given the current challenges and disruptions of the COVID-19 era. PLUS will focus on improving retention and persistence by providing special bridge programming that extends the training and financial support of BUILD EXITO for an additional year to address the needs of scholars who have completed the program but have not yet entered graduate school or the workforce.  PLUS will establish the infrastructure to identify additional philanthropic partners and support more students in need. 

“The pandemic has severely disrupted the educational experiences and career trajectories of our scholars — particularly those in their final year. Employment prospects have evaporated due to widespread layoffs and hiring freezes, and many students’ plans for graduate school have been thrown into disarray,” said Dr. Carlos Crespo, professor at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, “We’re very grateful for this investment in our PLUS project which will give our scholars the time and resources needed to stay on track.” 

The NIH-funded BUILD EXITO program at Portland State University offers a comprehensive, developmentally sequenced, three-year research training program to prepare historically marginalized undergraduates for careers in scientific research. At PSU, there are currently 230 students enrolled in EXITO — many of whom plan to pursue careers in the biomedical field. 

Guided by the vision of a future where health and prosperity are accessible to all, The Genentech Foundation works to unlock access to educational and career pathways in the life sciences and medicine. The U.S.-based, private charitable foundation was established in 2002 by Genentech, a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures, and commercializes medicines to treat people with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For further information, please visit