SPORES Program Germinating at MSA Meeting in Flagstaff

The SPORES program (Society Prioritizes Our Recruitment of Every Scholar) made its debut this year at the MSA meeting in Flagstaff, AZ. This mentor-mentee-based program aims to diversify, advance, and promote future mycologists by recruiting undergraduate students from demographics that are underrepresented at MSA. SPORES invites mentees to become MSA members and creates a welcoming environment during the MSA annual meeting.

This year, SPORES hosted 22 mentees representing 21 universities from the United States, Canada, México, Hungary, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Mentees became MSA members for the year, and had their meeting registration, MSA foray, and MSA banquet costs covered thanks to funding from MSA and the National Science Foundation (NSF IOS-PBI 2029168).

Eleven volunteer mentors supported the program, including five PhD candidates, two postdocs, and four professors. Mentors shared their passion for fungi, advice, and experience with mentees’ as well as accompanied them during social events and introduced them to other mycologists attending the conference.

The SPORES program generated a friendly and constructive environment for first-time MSA meeting attendees that promoted a sense of belonging to our Society. We expect this effort will result in retention of these new MSA members for years to come, as evidenced by the mentees’ interest in abstract and travel awards submissions a year in advance of the MSA 2024 meeting in Toronto, Canada.

We highly encourage MSA members to donate in support of SPORES. Funding will allow us to create a SPORE bank to continue this successful program in the following years and provide the opportunity for diverse undergraduate students to join the MSA community. To donate, please go to https://msafungi.org/donate-online/ and select ‘SPORES program’ in the fund dropdown menu. Let’s actively invest in MSA’s mission of promoting science equity and diversity in our Society!