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University announces McNair Scholars

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LAWRENCE — Selected from a field of more than 40 applicants, the TRIO McNair Scholars Program’s 2015 research cohort assembles 17 high-achieving University of Kansas undergraduate students who aspire to join America’s next generation of university professors and researchers.

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 behavioral neuroscience, political science, history, social welfare, environmental science, theatre, microbiology, English, African and Africa-American studies, physical education, psychology, neurobiology and journalism.

“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 Gretchen Anderson. With Anderson’s guidance, students design independent-research proposals that they will 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, and
  • Build professional networks with scholars in their fields.

“We are a multicultural society, and the McNair Scholars, who are low-income and first-generation college students, will bring their life experience perspective to the classroom when they join the professoriate after obtaining their doctorate degrees,” said CEOP Director Ngondi Kamatuka. “Their life experiences will enrich and broaden the experience of the students they will teach. We are looking forward to being a part of their educational journey, and we are blessed to have them on board.”

The 2015 McNair Scholars:

        • Gabriel Alaniz, Overland Park junior

Alaniz is a theatre major with research interests in the various forms of multicultural theatre, particularly the history and evolution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes and character in theatrical works.

• Cornelius Baker, Wichita junior

Baker is a behavioral-neuroscience major interested in researching treatment and diagnosis of mental health disorders within marginalized populations.

 • Samantha Beauchamp, Kansas City, Kansas, sophomore

Beauchamp is a microbiology major with research interests in microbiology, virology, and infectious disease, particularly drug resistance in bacteria, Type III secretion systems, filoviruses and retroviruses.

 • Elizabeth Burney, Louisville, Kentucky, sophomore

Burney is an environmental-science major with a research interest in the sociology of environmental consciousness and behavior.

 • Trinity Carpenter, Richmond junior

Carpenter is a social welfare major with a research interest in the social implications for adolescents who have incarcerated parents.

 • Jacob Chamberlin, Wichita junior

Chamberlin is a physical education major with research interests in sports psychology, coaching perspectives and human performance.

 • Alyssa Cole, Garden City sophomore

Cole is a double-major in the fields of history and African and African-American studies with research interests that combine the two. Specifically, Cole is interested in researching the role of African-American women in the United States military during the 20th century, focusing on these women after the integration of the military services in 1948. 

 • Michael Cox, Augusta sophomore

Cox is a political science major with minors in Spanish and women, gender, and sexualities studies. Cox’s research interests are in political inequalities, LGBT political representation, voting methods and voting demographics in relation to American identity.

 • Darinka Delatorre-Castillo, Guadalajara, Mexico, junior

Delatorre-Castillo is a neurobiology major with an interest in stem-cell research as a treatment of chemical imbalance in neurobiological degenerative disorders.

 • Amr El Afifi, Kansas City, Missouri, sophomore

El Afifi is a dual major in political science and journalism. He is interested in researching political movements in the Arab world, specifically Egypt and the Gulf, and how these respective powers structure/mend/influence political possibilities.

 • Sonja Guzman, Clinton, Missouri, junior

Guzman is a psychology major with research interests in the area of adult attachment. Specifically, she is interested in determining whether or not securely priming participants in long-term relationships has an effect on their daily sexual habits.

 • Dalton Leprich, Lenexa sophomore

Leprich is a microbiology major with research interests in how the human micro biome affects overall human health, and in finding a cure for malaria.

 • Kierstin McMichael, Wichita junior

McMichael is an English major with minors in sociology and history. Her research interests include college students who are currently facing homelessness, patterns of involvement in student organizations for students of color, and the different socialization patterns that exist between African-American men and women in relation to the general population in universities.

 • Michael Miller, Kansas City, Missouri, sophomore

Miller is a psychology major with a research interest in race and psychology.

 • Joy Mosier-Dubinsky, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, junior

Mosier-Dubinsky is a history major with research interests in classical antiquity, focusing on Rome and, specifically, gender roles and religion.

 • Kristina Padilla, Denver junior 

Padilla is a journalism major with a minor in women, gender and sexuality studies. She is interested in employing qualitative methods to explore women’s narratives of their involvement in motorcycling.

 • Ian Turnbow, Topeka sophomore

Turnbow is a psychology major with research interests in clinical psychology of adults suffering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Additionally, Negash said, the KU McNair Scholars program has implemented a new “Rising Scholars” initiative designed to prepare promising students who are sophomores for summer research internships the next academic year. “Due to the high number of qualified students who apply to the program, we place several students on waitlist and select a few rising scholars,” Negash said. “Rising scholars are coached to engage with research in their departments and prepare for undergraduate research experiences at the University.”

The 2015 Rising Scholars:

  • KeAndra Goodman, Riverdale, Georgia, sophomore
  • Daniel Whedon, Winchester sophomore


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 KU in October 1992, and 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.

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