FVSU Alum Spotlight: Shanah Sharpe

Where are you from? I am originally from Kingston, Jamaica. I moved to Atlanta, Ga. when I was fifteen years of age (tenth grade). How did you end up at FVSU and when did you graduate? I learned about Fort Valley State University while I was a senior in high school. FVSU was among the schools that visited my high school (Westlake High). I was very fascinated by the recruiters and the passion the students expressed while describing their experience to us.  Thus, I applied and was accepted. FVSU was one of my top two choices of selection for colleges (Bethune-Cookman was the second). However, my father quickly narrowed my choice down since the HOPE scholarship was available if I stayed in the state of Georgia. Hence, I enrolled at FVSU in 2009 where I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Mathematics four years later (2013). What benefits did you get from FVSU? FVSU is where I obtained my first job; FVSU gave me my unforgettable study abroad experience; FVSU provided me the opportunity to partake in my first research experience; FVSU is where got the prestige opportunity to join the biggest and most illustrious sorority to grace this earth, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. In short, FVSU has served as a gateway for me to enter the “big world”. What benefits did you get from LSAMP? I was not fortunate enough to receive a “full ride” to FVSU. Nonetheless, since I was a student who was always in good academic standing, I was determined to find some type of funding. After meeting with several individuals in leadership on campus, I learned of the Peach State LSAMP program. After interviewing, I was selected as a recipient for funding which was $1,000 per semester. To my surprise however, LSAMP is not only about funding students. It is a program designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities, like myself, in obtaining a Ph.D in the STEM field. I was able to mature as a scientist with the LSAMP program. Through LSAMP, I gained multiple research experiences. The first experience I obtained through LSAMP made me fall in love with research, while the second experience (in chemistry) made me more diverse in my field. Aside from research experiences, LSAMP served as an agent to help sharpen my presentation skills. Through the program I was able to travel and explore multiple states (for free!). LSAMP also gave me a plethora of networking tools. In addition, the program director, Dr. Daniels, always supported me in the advancement of my career and opened numerous doors for me. Lastly, but most importantly, the greatest benefit I gained from LSAMP is my mentor, Dr. Zhu, who I see as a father figure and who still mentors me two years later after graduating FVSU. What benefits did you get from BD program at JSU? I am currently in the Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) program at Jackson State University. The BD program is a continuation of LSAMP and thus prepares underrepresented minorities to obtain their Ph.D. It pays $30,000 per year plus tuition, books, health insurance and travel. I often tell my peers that this program has been one of the best things that has happened to me. Though strict, the program provides a support system for me, while providing me with the necessary tools to succeed in any Ph.D. program. How and why were you invited to talk to the LSAMP students? I managed to run into Dr. Daniels at the ABRCMS conference in November 2014 where I expressed to him that if he ever needed me to talk to the students about anything, count me in! He took me up on the offer on the spot. He observed that I was “on it” while applying to graduate school and as a result, I was capable of giving the students sound advice about applying to graduate school. What was your talk about? As a senior applying for graduate school, the application process can be very stressful. I remember when I was applying; my mentor told me I was not myself. In other words, I was STRESSED! The talk I gave to the LSAMP students covered preparation before applying to graduate school, what to do when applying and what to do after you have been accepted. What are your career goals? My ultimate goal is to become the president of a university that emphasizes research in the STEM field. In that role, I plan to teach and mentor undergraduates to expand their interest in research. In doing that, I will be able to pass on my knowledge to future mathematicians and scientists. Ihope in my future roles to help ensure that programs are in place to encourage the participation of minorities in STEM fields. This will in turn, add to the betterment of our world. Who knows, maybe FVSU will be that university.