Eleven TRIO McNair Scholars earn KU degrees, honored for undergraduate research achievements

Friday, May 16, 2014

Program helps low-income, first-generation and underrepresented college students
achieve undergraduate goals and prepare for graduate school and beyond

Eleven graduating University of Kansas seniors in the TRIO McNair Scholars Program in the Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI) have received certificates, awards and special scholarly cords honoring their completion of the rigorous program. Their achievements were recognized at a May 2 banquet at the Kansas Union that included remarks from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, other university leaders and program alumni.

As one of eight Federal TRIO Programs in AAI’s Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP), the McNair Scholars Program engages its students in various learning activities designed to help them become competitive candidates for graduate school. Each scholar conducts a summer research project in his or her major field of study under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

“This is always a thrilling moment in the academic year,” said McNair Scholars Program Director Mulu Negash, herself an alumna of the program. “We watch these students grow intellectually and advance in their fields of study, and while their roads to success are not easy, their time at KU and with McNair teaches them how to rise above difficult challenges to accomplish goals.”

In addition to their participation in the summer-research internship, scholars complete an interdisciplinary-research-methods course and a GRE preparation course sponsored by the program. They also meet individually with program staff every two weeks during the academic year and attend monthly workshops.

This year, students presented their research at national and regional McNair research conferences at the University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Heartland Research Conference in Kansas City.

“They may forget the various theories and systems they learned, or our conversations and presentations with McNair, but I am confident that they will retain valuable critical-thinking, research and scholarly skills,” Negash said. “Our aim for this program includes helping individuals refine their resiliency and tenacity, develop resourcefulness and imagine greater futures than what they otherwise might have thought possible.”

Gray-Little and AAI Director Neal Kingston presented each student with special scholarly cords to commemorate their journeys to graduation. Blue cords represented the intellectual scholarship and rigorous research projects the students completed. Gold cords went to students who earned departmental honors and completed undergraduate honors theses. Kingston and CEOP Director Ngondi Kamatuka presented students with certificates for successfully completing the McNair Scholars Program, and several were honored with special awards.

Clint Jensen (gold) of Kansas City, Mo., served as the senior speaker and also received a McNair Spirit Award; Yliana Ruiz (blue) of Guadalajara, Mexico, was recognized with a McNair Spirit Award.

Ronald E. McNair Challenger Awards went to Jamie Fuller (blue) of Wichita, Kan., and Jon Nelson (gold) of Salina, Kan. The Katherine Humphrey Memorial Award went to Ruaa Hassaballa (blue) of Khartoum, Sudan, and the LaTina Sullivan Memorial Award went to Louisa Hussein (blue) of Accra, Ghana. The Chico Herbison Leadership Award went to Joshua Russell (gold) of Lawrence, Kan.

Others to earn gold cords were Merritt Schenk of Buhler, Kan., and Tyler Wieland of Clay Center, Kan. Others to earn blue cords were Paul Fowler III, Lawrence, Kan., and Eric Rivera of Los Angeles.

KU faculty members Nathaniel Brunsell (geography), Evangelia Chrysikou (psychology) and Allan Hanson (anthropology) were honored with McNair Mentor Awards for their exceptional service as mentors and their commitment to advancing underrepresented students in scholarly endeavors.

Belinda Hinojos, who received the McNair Scholars Outstanding Achievement & Service Award, addressed the banquet as McNair Alumna Speaker. Hinojos, who holds two KU degrees – a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in counseling psychology – went on to earn a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, where she now works as a psychologist in the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and also serves as the Latino outreach specialist and liaison for UNL’s TRIO Programs.

By the Numbers: The McNair Scholars Program at KU

Since its establishment at KU in 1992, 263 students have participated in the McNair Scholars Program, with 16 new scholars joining during the 2013-2014 academic year. In 22 years at KU:

  • 224 scholars have earned bachelor’s degrees
  • 109 scholars have earned master’s degrees
  • 16 scholars have earned a Ph.D.
  • Eight scholars have earned terminal/professional degrees (M.D., J.D., Pharm.D., PTD, VMD, Ed.D.)

About AAI
AAI is the umbrella organization for four specialized educational research centers at the University of Kansas, including CEOP, which supports a wide spectrum of learners and provides educational information, counseling, academic instruction, tutoring, assistance in applying for financial aid and supportive encouragement to both students and their families. Programs help students overcome academic, economic, social and cultural barriers to higher education. CEOP programs serve students at the University of Kansas, and youth and adults in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas. CEOP partners with more than 70 community agencies and schools in the state, including school districts in Lawrence; Topeka; and Kansas City, Kan., as well as the Kansas City, Kan., Housing Authority; the Kansas City Career Center; the KU Center for Research on Learning; and the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth.

AAI’s other research centers are Agile Technology Solutions, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research, and the Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation. In all, AAI employs about 350 professionals, all committed to building partnerships, products and programs in educational practice, assessment and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels.


Media Contact
Bill Woodard
Communications Manager
Achievement & Assessment Institute
The University of Kansas
bwoodard@ku.edu | 785.864.1680

KU Today
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times