STRONG Program Shrinks University, Offers STEM Students Success

Anael Ais

The University of Central Florida carries a reputation for its size, but Anael Ais didn’t fully realize how big the university truly is until he transferred from Valencia College.

“It’s a big adjustment because UCF is such a big school and it’s hard to navigate that alone,” said Ais.

The university began to shrink, however, when Ais enrolled in the STRONG Program, which offers both scholarships and a faculty mentor. The former helped him pay down some student debt, while the latter offered a personal connection to his department and career advice.

“I’ve shared with him a lot of the experiences I had and demonstrating some of my vulnerabilities and sensitivities have allowed us to have open dialogue with one another,” said mentor Statistics Associate Instructor Daniel Inghram. “

The STRONG Program (an acronym for STEM TRansfers’ Opportunities for Nurtured Growth) offers scholarships in the range of $2,000-$8,000 for first-year transfer students in science, technology, engineering, statistics, and mathematics (STEM) fields, through a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

For Ais, the scholarship relieved some of the financial pressure and made it easier to take care of family. Both Inghram and Ais describe the STRONG program as family oriented.

“You have community all around. You have a lot of professors who are willing to help you with resumes and recommendations,” said Ais, who found a job doing computer science with the support of his mentor.

The STRONG program was developed in 2018 at UCF to recruit and attract students into STEM fields and provide support for transfer students who demonstrate financial need and academic talent.

“Many of those who were new to UCF this year, claim that STRONG provided an instant community for them at a time when meeting classmates through online learning environments was extremely difficult,” said Brian Moore, head coordinator of the STRONG Program.

Although applications for the Fall semester are currently closed, the STRONG Program are willing to accept applicants provided they meet the requirements.

Both Ingram and Ais hope to see more students apply as they feel it’s important to support transfer students from community colleges coming to UCF.


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