The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, which provides support and opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM disciplines at VCU, offers a summer transition program for incoming freshmen students. The six-week program, which features structured online and face-to-face programming, prepares students academically and socially, connecting them with peers and mentors before the first day of class.
At the conclusion of the program last summer, Lauren Griggs (Pharm.D’16/P), program director of LSMAP, arranged for the approximately 40 participating students to stand in a circle. She then had the students, one by one, speak about what they would most take with them from their summer experience. Many of the students talked about the power of meeting each other and beginning to feel like they were part of a family at VCU. As the students spoke, they exchanged a ball of yarn. Each student held onto a piece of the thread as the ball was passed randomly within the group. By the end, the thread was interwoven throughout the circle, forming a striking purple web.
Griggs, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, then told the group, “This web shows all of the connections that we have created together. Think of this web as a support net for you from now on. We are all here to support each other.”