Will Gaines Offers Insight on Yale Interview and Upcoming 2010 Paid Summer Research

My McNair research project titled, Education at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute during the Reconstruction Era has taken me on an amazing academic journey.  As a history major, research is the key ingredient in becoming a successful historian. To gather information for my project, I have been in email correspondence with world renowned historians from Yale, Columbia and Brown University.  I was surprised by their quick responses to my research inquires. Communicating with these historians made me realize the importance of networking in the academic world. The McNair name has a lot of clout and by participating in the program I have received an abundance of information. My McNair mentor Dr. L. Ivey has also provided me with great direction pertaining to my subject matter.

Amazing things can happen to you as a McNair Scholar.  Recently, I was granted an interview with a professor from Yale University’s History Ph.D. program with whom I share similar research interests. For summer 2010 I applied for and was admitted to attend a fully funded historical seminar series at Yale which includes a living stipend.  I attribute my successful admission into the program to my academic achievements and the contacts I made during my research with the professor at Yale.  Never in a million years could I have imagined going to an Ivey League school for an interview with a world renowned historian. Now, I know that anything is possible. 

My advice to all prospective and current McNair scholars is to put yourself out there; make the contacts with academic leaders in your field.  Before you make those contacts, read any journals, articles, etc. about that contact person, you will be surprised at how this little task may benefit you and your future.


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Sahar Muhsin’s Reflections on studying Physics and Religious Studies at CSUEB.

Sahar Muhsin’s Reflections on studying Physics and Religious Studies at CSUEB.

My name is Sahar Muhsin-Laufman. I am a 23 yr. old junior, double majoring in physics and religious studies. I have strong interests in the study of the universe and how human beings fit into the larger equation. I came to CSUEB very ambitious and motivated toward my studies and the eventual career options that would spring forth from them.  The McNair Scholars Program has helped me move closer to my goal of one day becoming a college professor.

My interdisciplinary research interests are very unique and over time I became discouraged in the process of trying to integrate my passions for physics and religious studies across the University’s mutually exclusive departments. In my opinion the fields of physics and religious studies are mutually inclusive and this is what I hope to prove with my future graduate school research.

The McNair Program introduced me to resources and tools to develop and investigate my research interest.  I am committed to continuing the process of formulating ideas and research strategies that will evolve my educational goals on a progressive platform.

I owe a great deal of praise to the McNair Program especially the support network of students and staff. Takiyah Franklin formed an intricate support network with which I could continue to develop my research interests without criticism that deconstructs my dreams of integrating physics and religious studies. The McNair community at CSUEB remains the only place I feel I can chart out my future according to how I personally envision it and for that I am eternally grateful.

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Joe Tafoya Speaks about Attending the Politics of Race, Ethnicity and Immigration Colloquium

Joe Tafoya Speaks about Attending the Politics of Race, Ethnicity and Immigration Colloquium

My trip to the Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration Colloquium (PRIEC) at the University of Washington was out of this world! I come from East Los Angeles and up until attending the conference the furthest I ever traveled from home was CSU East Bay. My McNair faculty mentor sent me an electronic flier for the PRIEC with a one line message saying “you should come.” I immediately jumped into action and forwarded the information to the McNair Scholars Program with high hopes that they would cover my airfare. Eventually everything came through and I was on my way to Seattle by way of Southwest Airlines out of Oakland International Airport.

                I was incredibly excited to attend the conference because it was right up my alley. Half of the papers to be presented tackled many of the questions I had in the field of Latino Politics and to top it all off the faculty organizer hosting the conference was Dr. Matt Barretto, a scholar/researcher whose work I cited multiple times. A week before making the actual trip, I came into contact with him because I needed a place to ‘crash’ while in Seattle.

                To make a long story short, the trip was an adventure! I first tried to rent a car at the Seattle airport but I had no credit card nor was I 25 years of age. I eventually found the one bus that went through downtown Seattle then across the sound into the university. With 5 hours to kill, I got off at downtown with enough time to catch some breakfast and get lost.

                The conference began at 2pm and I arrived with minutes to spare to meet up with my advisor so she could introduce me to her fellow colleagues. There I met the Political Science heavy hitters in the field of race, ethnicity, and immigration politics. I was able to finally match a face to the people I only knew from books and journals. To my surprise, a good majority of them were in their early 30’s, young, hip, and down to earth. From the impression that I got, the field is young and on the cutting edge with much to be researched.

 The conference gave me a crash course in the type of research community I want to join. I am reading lots of statistics, lost of models, lots of theories, and lots of criticism to prepare myself. The students that presented had already or were on their way to defend their doctoral dissertations and were looking for faculty positions at various universities. I sat patiently and quietly for 5 to 6 hours with an open mind to absorb their knowledge. All I can say is that I left the conference highly motivated. The presenters at the conference will remain in my mind until the time I am presenting my heart out as they did.

                First and foremost, I have to thank both the McNair Scholars Program and my advisor, Dr. Melissa Michelson, for giving me the chance to make this happen. The rest was done with stubborn determination, an iPhone for navigation, and Seattle’s public transportation. The experience only lasted a day and a half but it is one that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I can say that I was motivated to continue working harder; because of the trip everything was suddenly thrust into perspective, the idea I had of college being a stepping stone to something greater was confirmed. I saw a glimpse of what my future holds and all I can say is that I like it.

 Joe Tafoya
’09-’10 Cohort
Winter 2010


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Michelle Faust Shares Experience of Applying to Graduate School and Her Acceptance to UC Davis Chemistry PH.D Program.

Michelle Faust shares experience of Applying to Graduate School and Acceptance to UC Davis Chemistry  PH.D program.

I was admitted into the McNair Scholars Program the summer before the Fall 2009 graduate school application process. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, but I really had no clue where to begin. I only had six months to research schools and submit my applications.

The McNair summer workshop series included a day where we talked about the graduate school admission process.  The session covered how to reach out to faculty at our prospective graduate schools by email. I would have never thought to contact a faculty member directly before applying to the school.

After researching schools, I became very interested in UC Davis.  I contacted a professor (per advice from the McNair meeting) who was performing research in a field of interest to me.  The faculty member at UC Davis immediately set up an appointment for me to visit the campus and meet with her.

After speaking with the professor, I knew UC Davis was a great fit for me. I became extremely focused on submitting a strong application and I was set on going to UC Davis.  Luckily, I got accepted to UC Davis Chemistry PH.D program with full expenses paid and a pretty good annual stipend.  I am excited to start my journey at UC Davis in Fall 2010.

I recommend that every student start the graduate application process early! I waited until my senior year to think about graduate school, I didn’t have two full years to think about where I would like to go and what I needed to do to prepare myself.  Instead, I was taking the GRE at the latest possible date, rushing to gather transcripts and finish essays for the application, taking classes and working!…not a good combination.  The best lesson of the McNair Program is  DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE.  The application deadlines sneak up so quickly and will ruin your whole winter break if you do not prepare.

All in all, life as a McNair Scholar is good.  The research experience you gain from working underneath a faculty member at CSUEB looks tremendous on your application.  Not only do you gain experience, but McNair also walks you through the application process to make sure you are successful in finding a graduate school that will match your needs.

Moral of the story: start early, research schools that interest you, and contact a professor in your research field directly to get the inside scoop on the university. Did I mention you should start early?

Michelle Faust

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Scholars have a photo shoot…Smile :)


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Phillip Williams on attending the 3rd Annual Field of Dreams Conference, Iowa City, Iowa at The University of Iowa.

I attended the Third Annual Iowa Mathematical Field of Dreams Conference on September 26th-27th, 2009. The conference was for students underrepresented in higher education who are seeking to further their academic careers in mathematics.  I learned about the conference through the McNair Scholars Program. You can find more information about the conference at this website:



 When I submitted my application to attend the conference, I was doubtful that I would be chosen. When I received the acceptance letter I was ecstatic. The letter explained that I was awarded a grant to fully pay for my travel to Iowa, my hotel, and the conference registration fee (which included meals). 

 Before this trip, I never traveled further than Reno, Nevada! The opportunity to attend this conference at the University of Iowa and the support of the McNair Program exposed me to what it takes to succeed in the graduate school application process. I recently finished 9 applications to Ph.D programs in Mathematics.

 I met a lot of students at the conference who were also preparing to apply to graduate school and we had the opportunity to share different perspectives on the process of selecting the best program. I learned a lot about the University of Iowa. Visiting the campus gave me insight to what attending the school might be like. In addition, I had the advantage of introducing myself to faculty whom I may work with or study under in the future. The trip was an invaluable experience and I encourage everyone to take full advantage of attending graduate school fairs, summer research programs, and of course the McNair program at CSUEB.

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Message From Sade Young (Cohort One) on Growing and Graduate School

Educationally speaking, I have grown tremendously in the past few years. During my undergraduate study, I knew I wanted to pursue graduate education but I had no idea where to begin my quest or positive role models to model myself after. It was until I met you, Takiyah and you introduced me to to the McNair program that I began to see my hopes and aspirations materialize. Though the guidance of the McNair program I was able to learn, not only the importance of applying but also the process of applying to schools. Though daunting at times, the program was able to provide me with the tools to help develop and refine my research skills. You served as a role model that the hard work and preparation would prove to shape me into a better scholar.

Now fast forward a year and I am a Master’s student in the Popular Culture department at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I have a full time teaching assistantship that requires me to instruct the introductory class to Popular Culture studies to a class full of 35 freshman three times a week. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I have a full course load of graduate classes. My improved work ethic and my preparation and diligence paid off as I completed my first semester with a 4.0 grade point average.

My research interest have also grown and developed. Currently I am focusing on ideas of commodified personas and Afro-Futurism and how they intersect with Hip Hop culture. More specifically I am exploring how technological enhancements in music turn musicians into half human –half techno cyborgs and how this process of “alien-nation” actually alienates the artist and counteracts the performance of blackness in Hip Hop culture. I’m also spending this time to work on my professional development. I have been invited to present my current research at two up incoming conferences. The first conference is the Battle Ground States Conference held here in Bowling Green, Ohio and the other presentation will take place in St. Louis, Missouri at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association International Conference. I have also been granted the opportunity to study abroad this summer in Tours, France where I will be learning French in June and I will spend July in Burkina Faso, Africa applying the French I’ve learned and taking African cinema and culture courses.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you, and the McNair program for all the help, encouragement and instruction. I can truly say that I am where I am because of the opportunities afforded to me through the likes of you and the entire California State Eastbay educational community.


      Sade Marie Young

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