The University of Texas at Austin, TX

In the wake of the pandemic, surveys indicate that students educational experiences and outcomes have been negatively impacted by financial barriers, feelings of social disconnectedness, and disruption in technical skill building and in-person research opportunities. We mitigated the impact of these three issues by creating an emergency fund, providing funding for research opportunities, expanding peer-communities for first and second year students, providing alternative skill building bootcamps and microcredentials, and building robust research opportunities focused on analysis of existing large data sets. An undergraduate education in the College of Natural Sciences is centered on experiential learning opportunities that allow students to form identities as scientists and mathematicians while engaging in the process of discovery. These actions allowed all students, and particularly those from underrepresented groups, to continue developing as scientists despite the unusual pandemic environment.