The professoriate is overwhelmingly from wealthy, educated, and urban origins

Tenure-track professors in STEM fields are:


from urban areas


from well-off financial backgrounds


more likely to have a parent with a graduate degree than the general population

Rural people have a lot to offer science and academia

Individuals from rural communities have been the source of great advances in science and human health. Vaccinologist Maurice Hillemann, Nobel Peace laureate Norman Borlaug, the ‘Father of the Green Revolution’, William Hinton, a pioneer in syphilis research, and Alice Evans, who elucidated the causes of brucellosis, all originated from rural farming communities.

However, rural people remain substantially underrepresented in science – about half at the level of tenure-track professor. The lack of rural people in science loses out on important perspectives that drive innovation and contributes to a disconnect between rural populations and the scientific community.

Rural Inclusion Program

Dr. Baylink established the Inclusion of Rural Individuals in Science (IRIS) program to increase representation of rural people in science careers.

The IRIS program has three components:

✔ Recruiting rural students to graduate programs who are 1st-generation college students and/or from low-income origins by giving seminars at rural higher learning institutions. These seminars erode information barriers and help connect rural students interested in research careers advance to doctoral programs. 

✔ Advocating for minimizing or eliminating fees associated with graduate program applications that disproportionately affect those of low socioeconomic origin. 

✔ Supporting the research training and mentorship of rural doctoral students through NIH Diversity Supplements, and other resources, for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Iris provides fee reimbursements for qualifying individuals admitted to the Immunology & Infectious Disease doctoral program at WSU.

Recipients of IRIS support:

2023: Marissa Laramie, Cristian Cabellos

Visualize socioeconomic disadvantage at the local level through Neighborhood Atlas, provided by The Center of Health Disparities Research (