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Photograph by Jamie Betts
Louie, Louie
He gets to stay — in Gottwald, courtesy of some students who care for their professor.

Every summer, biology professor Shannon Jones gives a group of incoming students a head start in the sciences. In return this year, some of them gave her a puppy.

The University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience puts 24 incoming students in labs in Gottwald Science Center weeks before beginning their first class. URISE participants develop a sense of community, establish mentoring relationships with faculty, and receive stipends to ensure the experience is accessible.

Ask Jones why the program does any of these things, and she’ll give you the same answer for all of them: to remove barriers.

URISE places particular emphasis on recruiting students from low-income backgrounds, students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students — all groups that are underrepresented in science and mathematics.

“Being inclusive is intentional. You can’t just go into a class and expect everyone to feel safe and welcome,” Jones said. “You have to put forth effort to make them feel that way.”

Ask Jones why the program does any of these things, and she'll give you the same answer for all of them: to remove barriers.

Her URISE and other students from last year got a chance to show Jones just how much she means to them when they saw their animal-loving professor grieve the loss of her dog Myles. Outwardly, the students offered condolences. Among themselves, they quietly collected money to get Jones a new puppy. Their secret project even had a code name: Project Hush Puppy.

“I was shocked that they wanted to do something,” Jones said. “Not only have they found community among themselves, but I’m a part of it.”

And so for the summer, a galumphing charmer called Louie trailed Jones around the biology wing of the Gottwald Center for the Sciences.

“Louie is the embodiment of the kind of support we have here,” she said. “I can’t really even put into words how special it is.”