Ruby (literature, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Taipei, credits Pioneer with giving her a transformational academic experience. “Pioneer pushed me to be able to learn. Even though it was really challenging, now I have more confidence that I have the ability to learn and do research and write. I’d had people advise me against studying literature, but in Pioneer everyone is very supportive,” she says. More than simply gaining confidence, Ruby underwent a mental transformation. “In neurobiology, there is a concept called neuroplasticity, where you believe that you can actually change your brain and your brain rewires for you. I think that Pioneer has helped me do that by letting me follow my passion and making me believe that I can do this and do it well,” she explains.
Like Ruby, many Pioneer scholars report that Pioneer has had a transformative impact on their mindsets. Pioneer’s academic system, which combines the scaffolding of research training, tutoring, and one-on-one mentorship by top professors with rigorous and challenging academic standards, is designed to encourage student growth. Often, the research program offers the push young scholars need to take their academics to the next level, becoming more confident in their ability to take on challenges.
For Joshua (chemistry, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Nigeria, research at Pioneer was characterized by “firsts.” “Before my Pioneer experience, I had never written a STEM paper before, and I hadn’t studied online. That online session was the first I’d had. I also hadn’t really had communication with people outside my school or in my country,” he says. Interacting with peers in an international cohort, conducting research online, and writing a full-length research paper were all experiences that pushed Joshua out of his comfort zone––and transformed his mindset. “The whole experience shaped me. After Pioneer, my communication skills increased, my writing skills increased, and my manner of approaching problem-solving and brainstorming changed. I became more likely to seize opportunities,” Joshua says.
Baris (international relations, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Turkey, emphasizes the way Pioneer taught him to think like a scholar and express himself accordingly. “Pioneer really transformed my thinking, and thinking from different perspectives and using the lenses of different fields. Since I did so many readings, I was able to speak up and express myself better,” he says. This had practical implications; Baris notes that he began to take initiative in his education due to his newfound confidence in his academic abilities. “I started writing my own research papers on my own time and showing them to my teachers. I wouldn’t have done that before. I wouldn’t have thought I was able to write a thirty page research paper,” he says.
Aditya (environmental science, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from India, agrees that Pioneer was transformative both due to the skills he learned and the academic mindset he acquired. “The time I was doing Pioneer was one of my busiest times at high school because of a combination of other commitments. It taught me to have a good work ethic and time management. More importantly, it was transformational in the sense of scholarship and academia. After Pioneer, whenever I had to write papers, I did not have that inertia anymore like I did in the beginning. I could just start off,” he says. Aditya credits Pioneer’s academic system with this change. “I felt more confident in writing papers and conducting research because I had been in a supervised mentorship program and I had resources that I could rely on and I knew exactly how to use them and what process I could employ to get to certain conclusions, as well as what I needed to do to learn things that I did not know and explore resources that I wasn’t aware of,” he explains.
While the Pioneer research program lasts only a few short months, its effects are long lasting. Pioneer’s academic system transforms students’ mindsets, building confidence, self-efficacy, and a desire to participate in a greater academic conversation. By driving students out of their comfort zone while providing the scaffolding they require for success, Pioneer provides the perfect environment for students to develop a positive, ambitious mindset when it comes to academics.