Valorie McAlpin was born June 8, 1953, in Lake Lure, North Carolina, and grew up on the family farm, where she picked fruits and vegetables during the summer months.
She received a bachelor's degree in French from North Carolina Central University in 1975 and a master's degree in educational media from North Carolina A & T State University in 1978.
During her undergraduate studies at Central, McAlpin studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris. After graduating from Central, she taught 8th grade English at Cool Springs Junior High School in Rutherford County, North Carolina.
From 1979 to 1983, she worked as media coordinator for the cooperative extension program at North Carolina A & T. From 1984 to 1990, she was director of extension and research communications. She then became director of agricultural communications for the school of agriculture. She currently works as an associate dean for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland.
McAlpin received the ACE Award of Excellence in information technology in 1993. She is the first African American to serve ACE as president.