BUILD EXITO turns students into scientific researchers

For the past five years, the American Samoa Community College has been a partner in BUILD EXITO, an undergraduate research-training program that supports students to become scientific researchers and aims to increase the diversity of the biomedical research workforce of the United States.

BUILD EXITO is based at Portland State University (PSU), which receives a major grant from the National Institutes of Health to serve as a center for innovation to help undergraduates, including those from diverse backgrounds, succeed in health research careers.

The acronym BUILD stands for Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity, and EXITO for Enhancing Cross Disciplinary Infrastructure and Training at Oregon.

Two representatives from BUILD EXITO Dr. Carlos Crespo, Principal Investigator for BUILD EXITO, and Dr. Toeutu Faaleava, Director of the McNair Scholarship, both from PSU, recently visited ASCC to meet with the College’s administration and to interact one-on-one with students participating in the program and their parents.

Dr. Crespo stated, “We already have a number of students from ASCC at PSU continuing their studies in biomedical fields like Biology, Chemistry, Public Health, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Speech and Hearing, and others. The final outcome of the program is that students, once they complete their Bachelors degree, continue onto graduate school. Our visit was to go over our current program activities, especially the early training students receive at ASCC as part of a research gateway course, and to establish a transfer agreement so these students can have a seamless academic transition.”

Human Services instructor Derek Helsham BUILD EXITO career mentor at ASCC said that following the visit by Dr. Crespo and Dr. Faaleava, the number of applications from ASCC students seeking to become part of BUILD EXITO has substantially increased. “BUILD EXITO can be a valuable opportunity for students interested in pursuing research careers in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical, health, and social sciences.

“We’re looking for passionate individuals from various backgrounds who want to join the future generation of scientific researchers. Whether they’re students of various ethnic backgrounds, those with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, or first-generation college students, they are all eligible to apply.”

BUILD EXITO takes students who have three years left until degree completion and prepares them for success in graduate school and beyond. The program aims to identify students early in their college career and engage them in finding solutions to today’s major health problems.

To apply to BUILD EXITO, students must be enrolled at PSU or one of the partnering community colleges (including ASCC) or universities.

For successful applicants, the program provides hands-on research experience at every stage of their undergraduate education.

Additional information about BUILD EXITO can be found online at

Students in American Samoa seeking to learn more about the program or how to apply can contact Derek Helsham by email at