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Laura Kingston
Achievement & Assessment Institute
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TRIO McNair Scholars program earns perfect refunding score, expands mentoring, announces new cohort

Wed, 03/28/2018


LAWRENCE — The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the University of Kansas TRIO McNair Scholars Program a perfect score in its refunding application for a $280,000-per-year grant for five years that will allow the program to continue serving KU students.

The TRIO McNair, established at KU in 1992, provides low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority students with the necessary skills, resources and support to prepare and earn placement in graduate programs to pursue doctoral degrees. Over the years, TRIO McNair has helped 311 KU students connect with campus and navigate the complexities of the classroom and beyond — a legacy that will expand with the most recent award. 

“This new grant allows us to expand our mentoring services to include graduate student mentors, group mentoring and professional development opportunities”, said Program Director Mulu Lemma. “Furthermore, in the new grant, we are going to be doing strategic development to support our scholars in having competitive graduate school applications.”

The TRIO McNair Scholars Program office in Joseph R. Pearson Hall currently serves 31 students annually. Recently, the program selected 27 high-achieving students who aspire to join America’s next generation of university professors, researchers and professionals. Fourteen of the 27 scholars have previously been active in another federal TRIO programs.

McNair Scholars receive paid research opportunities, faculty mentors, a GRE preparation course, tutoring and assistance with graduate school applications. Scholars begin their work by taking an interdisciplinary research method course facilitated by Achievement & Assessment Institute Director Neal Kingston. During the course, students design independent research proposals that they begin to work on during the summer.

During their research, McNair Scholars work closely with faculty mentors to: 

  • Identify and read literature in their research areas
  • Refine research methods and academic writing skills 
  • Learn about the nature and rigors of research along with the multiple professional pathways for doctorate holders and
  • Build professional networks with scholars in their fields.

Ngondi Kamatuka, director of the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs in KU’s Achievement & Assessment Institute, said the TRIO McNair Scholars Program aligns with the university’s Bold Aspirations initiative in the ways that they encourage and sustain diversity and student success.

“Even when students from these backgrounds are accepted into college, if they do not have the full range of support services, the likelihood of their success is disproportionately diminished,” Kamatuka said. “A confluence of socioeconomic disadvantages work against these students, but these programs provide the support systems that can make all the difference between staying in school and thriving, and dropping out.”

The 2018 KU TRIO McNair Scholars cohort:

  • Kayleigh Anderson, junior from Lawrence, majoring in English with research interests in media and literature representation of marginalized groups
  • Frank Angel, senior from Garden City, majoring in foreign language education with research interests in educational policies and their effect on LGBTQIA2+ students
  • Robert Armstrong, senior from Kansas City, majoring in health and physical education with research interests in public health policy and epidemiology
  • D’Arlyn Bell, junior from Merriam, majoring in public administration with research interests in social stratification and poverty issues
  • Olivia Borland, senior from Wichita, majoring in psychology and social work with research interests in how policies marginalize populations at the intersection of race and class
  • Tacia Burgin, junior from Merriam, majoring in psychology with research interests in child mental health and the influences of family and environment
  • Tyler Cargill, junior from Wichita, majoring in chemical engineering with an environmental concentration with research interests in consumer decision-making and sustainability
  • Franklin Conard, junior from Kansas City, majoring in anthropology, with research interests in examining national and ethnic identity through material culture, language and genetics
  • Haley Cooper, junior from Wichita, majoring in news & information and psychology with research interests in the influence of stereotypes and racial prejudice on the dissemination of health care
  • Jasmine Deng, senior from Merriam, majoring in biochemistry with research interests in secondary metabolite discovery and neurodegenerative disease
  • Monica Martinez, junior from Tecumseh, majoring in American studies with research interests in Hispanic migrant labor patterns and labor exploitation in the United States
  • Autumn Arvidson, senior from Kansas City, majoring in environmental studies with research interests in the relationships and interaction people have with plants and their ecosystems
  • Leslie Muse, junior from Chicago, majoring in French and global & international studies with research interests in how race and ethnicity affect access to societal benefits
  • Michelle Oboro, junior from Olathe, majoring in psychology with research interests in factors affecting women and child victims of domestic violence
  • Cassandra Olender, senior from Fontana, majoring in philosophy and psychology with research interests in metaphysics in space relativity
  • Blessing Opara, senior from Kansas City, Missouri, majoring in psychology with research interests in racial trauma and PTSD symptoms in African-Americans
  • Paola Ramirez, sophomore from Wichita, majoring in public administration and Latin American & Caribbean studies with research interests in understanding the Virgin Mary's role in defining womanhood in Latin America
  • Dasy Resendiz, senior from Kansas City, majoring in Latin American & Caribbean studies with research interests in the preservation of “Barrer,” a cultural Mexican practice
  • Jacoby Robinson, senior from Abilene, majoring in biology with research interests in public health with a focus on epidemiology and infectious diseases
  • Jordan Rodriguez, junior from Rogers, Arkansas, majoring in psychology with research interests in control motivation and therapy techniques
  • Gyasi Talib, junior from Kansas City, Missouri, majoring in architectural engineering with research interests in development and construction of “smart cities”
  • Bobby Tech, junior from Salina, majoring in political science and public administration with research interests in equitable health care access and effect on educational outcomes
  • Chad Uhl, senior from Bonner Springs, majoring in classical antiquity and classical languages, with research interests in Augustan Age literature and conceptions of time and eternity in antiquity
  • Bryan Vasquez, sophomore from Great Bend, majoring in biochemistry with research interests in multi-drug-resistant bacteria and novel antibiotics
  • Karen Vazquez, junior from Liberal, majoring in civil engineering with research interests in the resilience and sustainability of different types of housing
  • Catalina Wedman, junior from Overland Park, majoring in Spanish with research interests in Americans’ knowledge of U.S. foreign policy with Latin America
  • Austin Young, senior from Herington, majoring in mechanical engineering with research interests in the use of nanomaterial in brain implants and for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


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