If you could Mapquest the Academic Community of Excellence (ACE), you would find its paths lead straight to graduate and professional school. The program, begun in 2004 and run under the auspices of Loyola Marymount University’s Office of Intercultural Affairs, recruits students and works with them in their sophomore, junior and senior years at LMU to prepare them for the rigors of a master’s or doctoral program.
Steven Neal, director of ACE, said the program works with underrepresented students and provides monthly workshops and academic advising. ACE also organizes social events and sponsors undergraduate research and travel to conferences. The goal of the program is to help students secure admission to graduate and professional programs by promoting academic achievement and involvement in scholastic activities.
ACE identifies qualified second-semester freshmen, based on grade point average. Candidates are then encouraged to apply to the program.
One of the prominent aspects of ACE is the undergraduate research project. ACE scholars work closely with a faculty member over a semester or summer on a chosen topic. There is no restriction on topics, Neal said. “We’ve had various research projects, including business, political science and English.” Monetary awards help support research by students and their faculty adviser. During the subsequent fall, the students are required to present the results at an annual symposium sponsored by ACE.
Neal recalls one student who took advantage of almost every aspect of the program. She joined as a freshman, met her faculty adviser at one of the program’s mixers and has conducted research with him for four years. She received a research award from ACE and presented at numerous conferences. Eventually she won a Goldwater Scholarship, a national award for juniors and seniors who demonstrate excellence and promise in mathematics, engineering and the sciences. Now, she, too, is headed to graduate school and a career in the sciences. “She just learned that she was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania veterinary program,” Neal said.