Virginia Union University Receives STEM Funding from Altria Group, Concludes Science and Engineering Summer Institute

August 15, 2022

RICHMOND, VA – August 15, 2022] -- Last month, Virginia Union University’s School of Arts and Sciences hosted its Science and Engineering Summer Institute. The five-week program, funded by a $500K grant for the 2021-2022 academic year from Altria Group, gave incoming, first-year students the opportunity to gain real-world, hands-on experience with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related projects.  

"As technology continues to evolve, the demand for STEM educators and workers increases,” said Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, President and CEO of VUU. “VUU is a proud recipient of this grant from Altria, which will allow us to shape the next wave of innovators in the STEM field.”

Seven rising VUU freshmen from regions across Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania participated in the program: 

Joseph Allen, Hailey Blackwell, Jayden Evans, Tyrice Fowlkes, Dakota Inniss, Micah Walker and Jonathan Woodhouse. 

During the summer institute, students participated in STEM-focused labs and workshops, working on 3D printers and building amplifiers, allowing them to gain knowledge and experience in electrical and mechanical engineering. After successfully completing the program, students received scholarships of up to $10,000 in tuition aid for the upcoming year.  

Dr. Francis Mensah, Associate Professor of Physics and Interim Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences, served as the manager of the summer institute, partnering with Dr. Ahkinyala Cobb-Abdullah, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and program supervisor and Valencia Clark, Project Coordinator. 

“By hosting this summer program, we hope to not only give students a jumpstart in their studies, but also help them with the cost of attending the university,” said Mensah. “We hope to increase the visibility of VUU and attract more students who are interested in STEM fields.” 

Joseph Allen, a first-year Cyber Security student from Maryland, was a part of the cohort.   

"Prior to applying for this program, I thought our classes were going to be mostly book work,” Allen said. “I was surprised at how hands on most of our projects were and how involved the students were.”  

To conclude the summer institute, the university held a closing reception to celebrate the students' achievements and completion of the program.   

"I would encourage other students to just do it," Allen said. "Get a head start on college courses. It will benefit your education going forward."