TRIO McNair Scholars Program selects diverse group of undergraduates for 2016 research cohort

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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’s/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 PhD holders, and
  • 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, sophomore
Allen is 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, Mo., sophomore
Bears is a world literature major interested in the depiction of women in Shakespeare’s plays.
Ashley Bennett, Lawrence, Kan., senior
Bennett is majoring in psychology and minoring 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
Bertram-Grant is double majoring in psychology and sociology and is interested in the use and effectiveness of online counseling/therapy.
Destiny Coleman, Detroit, senior
Coleman is a social welfare major with research interests that include trauma and PTSD in African American communities.
Anissa Fritz, El Paso, Texas, junior
Fritz is pursuing two majors, in journalism and sociology, with research interests in American newspapers and their effects on social and class barriers.
Terri Harvey, Silver Spring, Md., junior
Harvey is a journalism major interested in researching the causes of anxiety and stress among millennials.
Matthew Heintzelman, Kansas City, Kan., junior
Heintzelman is an electrical engineering major interested in researching magnetism and electric motors.
Amir Khaleghi, Kansas City, Mo. senior
Khaleghi is majoring in economics, with an interest in studying the effects of segregation on unemployment.
Nina Nganga, Sacramento, Calif., junior
Nganga 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
Nunez-Arroyo 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
Perez 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, Wisc., sophomore
Rudfelt is majoring in psychology and sociology. She is interested in researching alcoholism within the Native American community.
Robert Sagastume, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, junior
Robert is a social-welfare major interested in studying the intersections of sexual assault, trauma and undocumented families.
Deanna Vierling, St. Charles, Mo., junior
Vierling is majoring in ecology and environmental biology, with research interests in ecological preservation, marine biology and KU’s Prairie Acre preserve.
Daniel Whedon, Lawrence, Kan., junior
Weldon 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.


Media Contact
Bill Woodard
Communications Manager
Achievement & Assessment Institute
The University of Kansas | 785.864.1680

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