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New TRIO McNair Scholars announced

Friday, February 14, 2014

LAWRENCE — Selected from a field of more than 60 applicants, the TRIO McNair Scholars Program’s 2014 research cohort assembles 18 high-achieving University of Kansas undergraduate students who aspire to join America’s next generation of college and university professors.

The program, established at KU in 1992, is part of the Achievement & Assessment Institute’s (AAI) Center for Educational Opportunity Programs and provides low-income, first-generation undergraduates 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 engineering, applied behavioral science, social welfare, psychology, biology, anthropology, political science, public administration, Spanish, clinical laboratory science and behavioral neuroscience.

“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.”

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 taught by Neal Kingston, AAI director and professor in the Department of Psychology and Research in Education. With Kingston’s guidance, students design independent-research proposals that they will begin work on during the summer.

“This is an amazingly strong group of students,” Kingston said. “I can’t wait to hear of their research successes when they present their projects this 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 and teaching careers
  • Build professional networks with scholars in their fields.

The 2014 McNair Scholars:

  • Theresa Amante, Garden City: Amante is a junior in civil engineering with research interests in transportation, roundabouts and water resources.
  • Cameron Arnold, Tecumseh: Arnold is a sophomore in engineering currently researching the effects of nanoparticles in hydraulic fracturing with Reza Barati, assistant professor of chemical & petroleum engineering. In the future, Arnold plans to research other forms of enhanced oil-recovery.
  • Jennifer Bailey, Hortonville, Wis.: Bailey is a sophomore in psychology with research interests in developmental psychology, specifically child cognitive and linguistic development and related delays. She is also interested in biochemical approaches to improving cognition and the ways that interpersonal bonds affect development.
  • Max Bearce, Johnson City: Bearce is a junior in psychology major with research interests in children and social habits.
  • Rudolph Christopher, Emporia: Christopher is a sophomore in computer engineering with research interests in computing and biosciences.
  • Natali Diaz-Yepes, Medellin, Columbia: Diaz-Yepes is a junior in biology with research interests in the relationship between dance and technology and the effect that technology has in the modern world of dance.
  • Sean Gilmore, Columbus: Gilmore is a junior in social welfare and speech-language-hearing with research interests that combine the two. Specifically, Gilmore’s potential studies include researching anxiety among those who have autism and examining the stigmas associated with hearing loss.
  • Jyleesa Hampton, Overland Park: Hampton is a senior in political science and women’s gender and sexuality studies with research interests in hip-hop feminism, womanism, black feminism, the prison-industrial complex and issues surrounding transnational justice.
  • Nicole Humphrey, Lawrence: Humphrey is a sophomore in political science and public administration with research interests in comparative politics and the influences of globalization, specifically in Africa and the Middle East.
  • Kaitlyn Jurgens, Omaha, Neb.: Jurgens is a sophomore in psychology major interested in researching and measuring the effects that advertising campaigns such as Dove's “Real Beauty” and American Eagle's anti-Photoshop lingerie series have on women's body image and determine if there is a correlation in sales after implementing these new marketing tactics.
  • Hannah Morrow, Skiatook, Okla.: Morrow is a sophomore in behavioral-neuroscience major with research interests in treatments for schizophrenia and depression.
  • Christian Orzano, Fullerton, Calif.: Orzano is a sophomore in clinical-laboratory-science with research interests in microbiology.
  • Allora Richey, Augusta: Richey is a junior in psychology and human biology with research interests related to violence, mental illness and substance abuse. She hopes her research will impact therapy and rehabilitation efforts in the community.
  • Merritt Schenk, Buhler: Schenk is a senior in applied-behavioral-science major with research interests in nutrition, health and fitness through a behavioral perspective. Schenk hopes to work with local elementary schools to address the issue of childhood obesity and to identify and propose fresh initiatives to implement as part of a school-wide system.
  • Dylan Smith, Olathe: Smith is a junior in anthropology and East Asian languages and cultures with ethnographic research interests.
  • Donald Spradling, Newburg, Mo.: Spradling is a senior in civil engineering with research interests in soil changes and the recirculation of water.
  • Carla Valenzuela, DeSoto: Valenzuela is a sophomore in psychology and Spanish with research interests in memory, language acquisition, perception and personalities.
  • Dakie Washington, Manhattan: Washington is a sophomore in social welfare with research interests in the interactions among high-school students from different cultural, racial and economic backgrounds.

The McNair Scholars Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the TRIO programs and was established at KU in October 1992 as one of 185 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.

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