2021 VA-NC Alliance Virtual Retreat

March 29, 2021

Virginia–North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Retreat

Hosted Virtually by Johnson C. Smith University

Due to the constraints of COVID-19 a retreat was held for VA–NC Alliance students, staff, and faculty instead of a traditional symposium. The VA–NC Alliance Retreat occurred from 9:00 am - 1:00 pm EST.  This event provided an opportunity for attendees to recharge and network with peers from partner institutions. The Distinguished Speaker was Ms. Joan Higginbotham a former astronaut with NASA.


Download a copy of the agenda, details can also be found below.

Monday, March 29, 2021

09:00 am – 09:15 am

LSAMP Opening Ceremony

Audience: All


Dr. Sunil Gupta, Program Director of JCSU-LSAMP, Johnson C. Smith University

Dr. Vijaya Gompa, Dean of College of STEM, Johnson C. Smith University; and

Dr. Kevin McDonald, Principal Investigator and Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships, University of Virginia.

09:15 am – 10:30 am

Session One Breakout Rooms

Audience: Students and Guests

Panel moderators:

Dr. Brian Hunt, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Ms. Dana Battle, Undergraduate Student, Johnson C. Smith University


Coping with the Pandemic as a Student followed by Graduate School and Industry Opportunities (9:15 am – 9:55 am)


Dr. Siddhi Gupta, Infectious Disease Physician, Novant Healthcare, Charlotte, NC; and

Ms. Paulette Plummer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Executive Director at Cathartic Counseling Services, Charlotte, NC.


Graduate School and Industry Recruiters (10:00 am – 10:30 am)


Ms. Sandra Penaherrera, United States Department of Energy; and

Dr. Joe Pitula, University of Maryland Eastern Shore.


Audience: Project Directors and Staff

VA–NC Alliance Partner Meeting

10:30 am – 10:45 am                   


10:45 am – 11:45 am         

Session Two Breakout Rooms

Audience: Students and Guests

Panel moderator:

Dr. Brian Hunt, Interim Chair of the Department of Computer Science, Johnson C. Smith University


VA–NC Alliance Alumni Pathways to Excellence in STEM


Mr. Chiron Anderson, Iowa State University;

Mr. David Gonzalez, University of Pennsylvania;

Ms. Briana James, Virginia Commonwealth University;

Dr. Corey Johnson, University of North Carolina at Asheville;

Mr. Bernard Smith, Microsoft; and

Ms. Alia Wofford, Howard University.


Audience: Faculty and Staff

Introduction to the Inclusive Excellence Framework

Dr. Kevin McDonald, Principal Investigator and Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships, University of Virginia; and

Mx. Rachel Spraker, Senior Director for Equity and Inclusive Excellence, University of Virginia.

11:45 am – 12:00 pm            


12:00 pm – 12:30 pm            

Distinguished Speaker

Introduction: Ms. Mattie Marshall, Program Coordinator, Johnson C. Smith University

Remarks: Ms. Joan Higginbotham, Astronaut and Engineer, NASA

Biography: Ms. Joan Higginbotham graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Chicago, Illinois, in 1982. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1987, a Master’s Degree of Management from Florida Institute of Technology in 1992, and a Master’s in Space Systems from Florida Institute of Technology in 1996.

12:30 pm – 12:45 pm   

Closing Remarks

Ms. Kristin Morgan, Program Director, VA–NC Alliance; and

Mr. Maurice Walker, Program Coordinator, VA–NC Alliance.