Five years ago Nebraska Wesleyan University was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to help increase its efforts in recruiting and matriculating minority students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
The program — called the Louis Stokes Alliance in Minority Participation (LSAMP) — is helping 15 Nebraska Wesleyan students who are exploring careers in the health field.
“The main goal of the LSAMP program is to increase the number of under-represented minority students graduating in STEM from our Midwest region alliance,” said Candice Howell, director of student success and retention. “We are committed to assisting underrepresented minorities in the building of their sense of identity within STEM, and providing academic support.”
The program also provides opportunities for increased faculty-student engagement, peer mentoring, internship and research opportunities, Howell said.
Savannah Lopez, a first-year student from Nickerson, received an application to the LSAMP program last summer. She participated in a summer transitions program that provided her the opportunity to meet STEM faculty and students, explore internship and research opportunities, and participate in field trips and workshops.
“Through the transition program, I knew NWU would be a great home for me,” said Lopez. “Having the opportunity to meet other people of color through this program has been amazing.”
Students in the LSAMP program meet monthly for workshops on study skills, time management, presentation skills, and scientific writing. Students also explore the intersection of race, gender, and class on STEM, as well as define and sharpen their roles as social justice agents of change, said Howell.
“LSAMP students are also highly encouraged to conduct undergraduate summer research after the conclusion of their first academic year,” added Howell. “Involvement in summer research promotes ongoing faculty and staff interactions, further engagement and overall student success.”
This fall LSAMP students had the opportunity to attend IINSPIRE Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The event — hosted by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science — brought together both students and professionals for a weekend of lectures and learning.
“I learned that finding a mentor is something everyone should do at any point in their life. Mentorship can be extremely beneficial, especially if they know a lot about your career goals and how to get there,” said Alexa Longoria, a sophomore nursing major from Gering.
In addition to sessions on writing resumes and preparing for graduate school, Longoria especially appreciated the research presentations on psychology and clinical health as she looks ahead to a career as a nurse practitioner in mental health care.
Lopez enjoyed the opportunity to meet STEM field professionals she may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.
“I networked with representatives from graduate schools,” she said. “I met representatives from NASA and NOVA at the convention, which was important to me because they showed that they truly care about students looking to make that next step in their lives.”
Those connections are only the start.
“Thanks to the program, we have the opportunity to research with scientists,” said Longora. “The leaders are amazing and truly care about our futures. And I’ve developed friendships that I don’t think I would have if I hadn’t joined LSAMP.
Story by Alessandro Schirano, Public Relations Intern