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Dynamic program is catalyst for minority success

Stacie Nunes with students sitting at computers
This summer, (clockwise from left) Stacie Nunes (Physics), Rosemary Holguin '08 (Secondary Education/Math) and Alexis Santana '08 (Biology) are using a computer program to illustrate their theories on how an atom's structure changes when other elements are added through the college's AC2 program.

Two New Paltz programs are making a difference for minority students studying science, mathematics and engineering.

Known as AC2, the program is comprised of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LS AMP) and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP), which provides minority students, like Rosemary Holguin '08 (Secondary Education/Math) and Alexis Santana '08 (Biology), with the tools they need to achieve academic success in the areas of science, mathematics, engineering and technology at New Paltz.

Stacie Nunes (Physics), assistant professor and director of AC2, said that professional and academic faculty work to increase the number of under represented and economically disadvantaged students who graduate from the college with science and engineering degrees by fostering a sense of community among students majoring in these areas.

"We need to do more to help students of color who are majoring in science, math and engineering, live up to their potential," said Nunes. "This program helps to achieve that goal."

The program works to establish and maintain a supportive environment for minority students as they progress through their undergraduate experience. Nunes said this is done through an integrated series of services and activities, which are scheduled by Reena George, program coordinator.

Access to services such as a tutoring network, lending library, academic advising and scholarships allows students to strengthen their skills in these areas. Each student works with an adviser who provides academic guidance and helps students adjust to college life.

"It was having an adviser helping me with classes that has allowed me to succeed in my major," said Holguin, whose adviser is Sarah Browne, assistant director of AC2.

The program also encourages students to work with faculty members on research projects. In 2006, the 54 students in the program logged in 5,600 hours in research and internship activities. This summer, Holguin and Santana each participated in two research projects with faculty members. They are currently working on a project with Nunes that focuses on optimizing atom clusters and adding elements to see how the atoms' structures change.

Summer research projects like this are a cornerstone of the program. According to Nunes, students can further their education by working on a hands-on project, as well as develop strong working relationships with faculty members that often continue throughout the academic year.

"The research program provides a good opportunity for me to do something in the scientific field and get experience," said Santana.

For more information about the AC2 program