TRIO McNair Scholars Program selects diverse group of undergraduates

LAWRENCE – Selected from a large pool of applicants, the TRIO McNair Scholars Program’s 2016 research cohort assembles 16 high-achieving University of Kansas undergraduate students who aspire to join America’s next generation of university professors, researchers and professionals.

The McNair Scholars Program, established at KU in 1992, is part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute’s (AAI) Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP) and 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. Fields of study represented in the new group include economics, sociology, women/gender/sexuality studies, chemistry, English, social welfare, journalism, electrical engineering, human biology, African/African-American studies, psychology and ecology/environmental biology. Six of the 16 scholars have also been active in another KU TRIO program, Supportive Educational Services.

“Qualifying for McNair Scholars Program indicates strong academic potential and deep commitment to a rigorous and challenging academic track,” said Program Director Mulu Negash. “This is an impressive group. The diversity of these scholars and their wide range of research interests helps to advance the university's goal of engaged learning and increased undergraduate participation in research across the curriculum.

“We value the pedagogic contribution of our scholars, and we are dedicated to cultivating the intellectual advancement of every scholar through rigorous research and scholarly activities across disciplines.”

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 and his colleagues. During the course, students design independent-research proposals that they begin 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
  • Build professional networks with scholars in their fields.

“We are happy to welcome the 2016 scholars into the program from a pool of talented, strong applicants,” said Academic Services Coordinator Jameelah Jones. “They have a strong desire not just to do research, but to make contributions to their fields that will have significant effects on their respective communities. It is impressive to see such promise and desire to make national and global impacts with their research interests.

“The research field must follow the trend of academia of becoming more inclusive of all disciplines and backgrounds. We are committed to cultivating the intellectual curiosity of our scholars through intensive research and scholarly experiences that expose them to diverse scholarly perspectives.”

The 2016 McNair Scholars:

Tyler Allen, Denver, is a sophomore majoring in psychology with a minor in African and African-American studies. Her research interests include African-American youth and the effects of music on African American communities over time.

Margaret Bears, Maryville, Missouri, sophomore, is a world literature major interested in the depiction of women in Shakespeare’s plays.

Ashley Bennett, Lawrence senior, is majoring in psychology with a minor in social, behavioral and statistical methodology. Her research interest centers on gender stereotypes as they translate in body image, women and STEM education and careers.

Sandra Bertram-Grant, Monterrey, Mexico, junior, is double majoring in psychology and sociology and is interested in the use and effectiveness of online counseling/therapy.

Destiny Coleman, Detroit senior, is a social welfare major with research interests that include trauma and PTSD in African-American communities.

Anissa Fritz, El Paso, Texas, junior, is majoring in journalism and sociology, with research interests in American newspapers and their effects on social and class barriers.

Terri Harvey, Silver Spring, Maryland, junior, is a journalism major interested in researching the causes of anxiety and stress among millennials.

Matthew Heintzelman, Kansas City, Kansas, junior, is an electrical engineering major interested in researching magnetism and electric motors.

Amir Khaleghi, Kansas City, Missouri, senior, is majoring in economics, with an interest in studying the effects of segregation on unemployment.

Nina Nganga, Sacramento, California, junior, is majoring in human biology, with a research focus in global maternal health and wellness. In 2014 she was one of the first two recipients of CEOP’s Jerry Bailey Educational Opportunity Scholarship, which supports underrepresented and first-generation students with limited income as they pursue undergraduate degrees at KU.

Margarita Nunez-Arroyo, Escarcega, Mexico, junior, is a journalism major with minors in creative writing and dance. Her research interests include Latina women and their depiction in literature.

Jorge Perez, Dallas, junior, is majoring in chemistry and aims to research photochemistry and spectroscopy in hopes of developing new models for teaching chemistry experiments in high schools.

Toni Rudfelt, Wausau, Wisconsin, sophomore, is majoring in psychology and sociology. She is interested in researching alcoholism within the Native American community.

Robert Sagastume, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, junior, is a social welfare major interested in studying the intersections of sexual assault, trauma and undocumented families.

Deanna Vierling, St. Charles, Missouri, junior, is majoring in ecology and environmental biology, with research interests in ecological preservation, marine biology and KU’s Prairie Acre preserve.

Daniel Whedon, Lawrence junior, is a psychology major with a concentration in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. He is interested in researching sexual assault and prevention on college campuses.

More on the program

The McNair Scholars Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the TRIO programs and was established at the University of Kansas in October 1992. It is one of 151 Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Programs nationwide. By preparing students for doctoral study from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education, the program is designed to help ensure that the next generation of American faculty members represents the diversity of our society at large.

Tue, 03/01/2016


Bill Woodard

Media Contacts

Bill Woodard

Achievement & Assessment Institute