FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Virginia-North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (VA-NC Alliance)?
It is a National Science Foundation funded program whose goal is to increase significantly the number of underrepresented minorities graduating in the STEM disciplines. Nine colleges and universities have formed an alliance to partner in this endeavor, and provide enhancement activities which will support students in their pursuit of STEM degrees. Increasing the numbers of underrepresented minority students who earn degrees in the STEM fields will diversify the pool of qualified graduates who are well-prepared to pursue graduate school in STEM fields and careers.
Which colleges and universities are involved in this alliance?
- Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC
- Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, NC
- George Mason University in Fairfax, VA
- Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC
- Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, VA
- St. Augustine's University in Raleigh, NC
- University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA
- Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA
- Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA
When did this program start? How long will it last?
The NSF award was granted to VA-NC LSAMP in May of 2007 and was originally funded through 2012. A one-year No Cost Extension from NSF continued the initial award period through April 30, 2013. A Midlevel grant from NSF started September 15, 2012 with an end date of August 31, 2017.
What is the range of VA-NC Alliance activities in which students can participate?
Each institution will provide specific activities geared to the particular needs of its students. Listed below are some of the activities that are available to students from the eight participating institutions.
- Annual symposia
- Peer/faculty mentoring
- Summer Bridge programs
- Undergraduate research experiences
- Workshops and colloquia
How does an undergraduate student benefit from the VA-NC Alliance?
The Alliance can provide support during the undergraduate years to facilitate successful completion of a STEM degree program. Participation in the Alliance connects students with opportunities to develop professionally in their disciplines. Students are also advised regarding graduate school opportunities.
Are there financial benefits to joining this program?
Each institution determines what specific financial support it can provide to participating students. Often there are funds available for book stipends, research, or travel. Once a student becomes an LSAMP participant, then he or she may apply to Bridge to the Doctorate programs to pursue graduate study in STEM.
How does a student qualify for participation in the VA-NC Alliance?
One must be an undergraduate student majoring (or intending to major) in a STEM discipline (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) and should contact the program coordinator (listed on the Investigators/Staff page of this website) at his or her home institution in order to apply.
What majors are considered STEM disciplines?
The NSF updates this list periodically. The VA-NC Alliance contact person at each college or university will identify which of the majors listed by NSF are offered.
Why should anyone consider joining this program?
The STEM disciplines can be intensive and challenging. The experience of being an underrepresented minority in these classes may feel isolating. The program offers services that support students with coursework, assist them in finding internships, as well as summer research opportunities.
When can an interested person join the program?
Many students enter as freshmen or first year students. Students also enter as transfer students from community colleges or after switching majors.
How long can someone participate in the program?
Students may participate in the program for their entire undergraduate careers if they qualify and resources allow. Each institution determines the level of support for its students on an annual basis.
Will students meet some of their counterparts involved in Alliance activities from the other institutions?
Yes! The VA-NC Alliance holds annual symposia during which students meet other VA-NC Alliance students and faculty from the other institutions. Summer research experiences also afford this opportunity.
As a third year/junior I am considering switching from a BA in English to a BS in Statistics. Is it too late for me to participate in VA-NC Alliance activities?
Students should contact the VA-NC Alliance program director (listed on the Investigators and Staff page of this website) at his or her participating institution to set up a time to discuss completed coursework, the intention for switching majors, feasibility.
I recently transferred to one of the alliance institutions from my local community college where I was majoring in a STEM discipline. Will I be eligible to participate in VA-NC Alliance activities?
Students should contact the VA-NC Alliance program director (listed on the Investigators and Staff page of this website) at his or her participating institution to set up a time to discuss the coursework completed thus far and potential participation. The program is designed to accommodate transfer students!
Will my advisor be familiar with VA-NC Alliance opportunities?
Not necessarily. It may depend on whether or not the advisor has had prior experience with an LSAMP program. The contact person for the VA-NC Alliance for your institution (listed on the Investigators and Staff page of this website) may know if your advisor is familiar; and if not, he or she can certainly apprise him or her of the advantages of participating in the consortium.
If someone is not strong academically in mathematics but has a knack for biology and computer science, can VA-NC Alliance activities help them identify an appropriate major?
Yes! The VA-NC Alliance contact person at each institution is available to advise students. Participation in poster sessions, mentoring opportunities, common reading experiences and annual symposia help students reflect on whether a proposed course of study is appropriate.
For students who are struggling with some of the requirements for a STEM major is there tutoring support they can receive?
Yes, all of the Alliance institutions offer tutoring.
Which courses typically hinder students' persistence in the STEM disciplines?
Math (Calculus) in engineering schools can be a struggle as can Chemistry for pre-med students. The VA-NC Alliance provides support for students who are enrolled in challenging programs of study, through tutoring, mentoring, summer research experiences and lab opportunities. These opportunities provide engagement with the material which helps students experience the application and purpose of their studies beyond coursework. It is not simply that students don't succeed in the coursework, often they do, but they can lose interest during these tough gateway courses.
Why should someone consider doing summer research?
Research shows that undergraduates who participate in summer research achieve higher academic success than those who do not, and are more likely to pursue graduate school.
Why should anyone consider going to graduate school?
Many more job opportunities, and higher paying positions, will be available to individuals with a graduate school degree in STEM.
Will VA-NC Alliance activities help a student find a job after graduation?
Alliance students have the opportunity to develop professional networks through internships and summer research, which will be an asset during their job searches.
What internships are available?
A list of internships within industry or at institutions of higher education is maintained on the Alliance's webpage called Research Opportunities.
Who does someone contact in order to do a summer internship, or present a paper at a colloquium?
Contact the person listed at the participating institution on the VA-NC Alliance webpage called Investigators and Staff for information.
Who oversees the programs at the individual institutions?
There are links available on the VA-NC Alliance website with contact information for the program coordinators at each institution.
Why should anyone pursue a career in the STEM professions?
Career opportunities exist in the academic, clinical and industrial arenas with rewards including personal achievements, high value to society, the excitement of innovation, and competitive salaries.