The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KY-WV LSAMP) consortium, spearheaded by the University of Kentucky, continues to empower students by offering transformative opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The program’s annual symposium was held Feb. 9-10 at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, one of the alliance institutions. 

“The symposium is dedicated to propelling scholars forward in STEM-related fields by facilitating the exchange of cutting-edge advancements, fostering awareness of new opportunities and celebrating their remarkable scholarly achievements,” said UK President Eli Capilouto, who serves as principal investigator on the grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). “It stands as a testament to the extraordinary progress we make when nurturing the next generation of STEM leaders with unwavering dedication.”

UK has led the KY-WV LSAMP program since it was created in 2006. The alliance is made up of 10 institutions of higher learning from across the two states.

The consortium’s goal is to increase the number of underrepresented students completing degrees in STEM fields. It reflects the ideals of the late Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, who pushed for the sponsorship of programs for minority professionals in health and science and engineering at the National Institutes of Health and the NSF, respectively.

UK students who attended the symposium had many takeaways from the event and shared how LSAMP has helped nurture their scholarly interests and inspire them to research new ideas.

“As always, I enjoy being around a cohort of like-minded people, especially people of color who are striving to diversify the STEM fields,” said Brooke Hall, an LSAMP scholar and sophomore majoring in agriculture and medical biotechnology in the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “During my time at Marshall University, the amount of encouragement and inspiration I gained from the symposium to continue pursuing a STEM degree was like no other.”

This was UK sophomore and LSAMP scholar Devin Bester’s second symposium. He emphasized the value of networking with other scholars at the event. “Going to the symposium and meeting all different types of people and scholars helped me overcome a bit of imposter syndrome and realize I have what it takes to be a good researcher just like anyone else,” said the mechanical engineering major in the UK Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering.

Another LSAMP scholar, Nadia Rosales, a sophomore neuroscience major in the College and Arts and Sciences, gained key insights from the guest speakers at this year’s symposium.

“In listening to Jabreel Walker’s keynote speech, I learned how setbacks can be learned lessons. My favorite quote of hers from that day would be, ‘Don’t be a prisoner to your dreams.’ As a STEM student, dreaming big is almost a given. I learned that even in that pursuit, there is always room for growth and change. You just have to allow it,” said Rosales.

The symposium also included a scholar poster session, academic fair, networking session and a crash course on preparing for graduate school applications.

“Our sincere hope is that the myriad of opportunities available to LSAMP scholars serve as the cornerstone of their academic journey while they’re here at UK,” said Kelly Bradley, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation in the College of Education. Bradley also serves as a co-principal investigator (co-PI) on the grant.

“More importantly, our goal is to create a place on campus for our scholars to succeed. We want this opportunity to act as a springboard to launch their careers in STEM whether that be in industry, academia or research,” said Bradley.

Bester credits LSAMP for igniting his interest in research and led him to apply for the Chellgren Student Fellows program. He is now a ‘Chellow’ or Chellgren Student Fellow.

“This journey made me really excited to get started in research,” said Bester. “I’m currently engaged in a project with Dr. Luke Bradley in the neuroscience department and am applying for several external opportunities for this summer. I wouldn’t have known about most of these opportunities had it not been for LSAMP opening that door for me.”

A major part of LSAMP is to connect scholars with research opportunities. It’s a key goal for Johné Parker, Ph.D., associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and associate professor in the Pigman College of Engineering, who serves as a co-PI on the grant.

“LSAMP offers our scholars a gateway to transformative research experiences that foster innovation and solve problems facing our Commonwealth and our country,” said Parker. “These opportunities further their academic growth, provide invaluable professional development and mentorship, and, ultimately, empower our students to excel in their chosen paths."

Rosales shared that LSAMP helped her create a support system on campus, not only for help with her coursework but simply as a place to get advice.

“LSAMP became my community,” said Rosales. “It’s the place where I can learn new and important skills to succeed in my major and, later on, my profession. It helped me gain confidence in myself that I can complete college and be the first in my family to do so.” 

Through LSAMP, Rosales also had the opportunity to attend the Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) STEM Conference in Maryland. There, she interacted with companies including Google, Boeing and NASA.

“None of that would’ve been possible for me without LSAMP,” said Rosales. “I’ve made connections I know will last beyond my college years.”

Hall echoed that feeling of community through LSAMP as well as the life-changing opportunities afforded to her.

“Since I joined in January of 2023, I have raved about how much this program means to me along with the time spent with so many individuals on both a peer and a mentor level,” said Hall. “I find myself doubting my abilities, but those self-doubts all seem to fade away when I am with my LSAMP friends and, now what I consider, my family.

“LSAMP is truly a one in a lifetime experience and should be treated as such. Without it, I probably would have fully considered changing my major. This program is the reason I am still striving to become a leader in the STEM world.”


In addition to UK, the alliance includes the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Centre College, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Kentucky State University, Marshall University, University of Louisville, West Virginia State University, West Virginia University and Western Kentucky University.

UK students can learn more about the program online here or contact Julie Bradley, acting director of KY-WV LSAMP, at

The NSF LSAMP program began in 1991 with six alliances, and now includes more than 40 alliances and six regional centers. The program provides funding to alliances that implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative and sustained strategies that result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly qualified students from underrepresented groups pursuing graduate studies or STEM careers. The program defines underrepresented groups as Black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Alaskan and Pacific Islander.