Since I have been in the McNair Program I have learned so much about applying for grad school. Before McNair, I had no idea how to get to graduate school. The Program’s staff are very pro-active and work closely with scholars throughout the year. Part of this “hands on” approach involves having a plethora of guests speakers, most or all of whom have Ph.D’s and who explain the step-by-step process of graduate school work. Additionally, I learned how NOT to make common mistakes when preparing my applications. In several McNair workshops we heard from graduate school administrators on what to avoid when submitting applications. As a McNair Scholar I have learned strategies that gave me an edge and helped me to stand out among prospective graduate students from all over the country.
Working with a faculty mentor who is committed to my success has helped me remain motivated. My mentor, Dr. Nicolas Baham jumped in, with both feet, offering invaluable guidance, advice and academic assistance. The interest my mentor shows to my research is sincere and enthusiastic. Dr. Baham also doubles as my ‘cheerleader’ when I feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Faculty mentorships is an advantage to receiving strong letters of recommendation. Building relationships with faulty as a undergraduate is critical to the graduate school application process.
I also learned a lot from the McNair Graduate School BOOT CAMP. The graduate school preparation BOOT CAMP is a test of will power, motivation, and endurance. I exceeded my own expectations in all three of these arenas. Not only did this provide a boost in personal confidence, it also gave me the opportunity to meet and truly bond with other members of the McNair group. I consider my McNair family a part of my extended family. It is wonderful to know that whether we run across one another on campus or bump into each years from now, the bond we have will still be recognized.
First and foremost, the Program gives McNair Scholars actual research experience. Scholars are required to complete a research project with the help of a faculty mentor, which foreshadows the dissertation required to obtain a PhD. A dissertation is usually a book-length work that a graduate student must complete under the guidance of a faculty adviser. The McNair program gives McNair scholars the chance to do research as undergrads, so that the dissertation will not be such a dreadful beast when they find themselves in graduate school. This is especially important considering that a large percentage of students do not complete the graduate programs they were admitted to. Being accepted into a graduate program is one thing, completing it is another.
Secondly, the McNair program gives the a to z on the graduate school admission process. If someone is serious about getting into graduate school, the McNair program is the best resource out there. Plus, having the title “McNair Scholar” in a graduate application carries a lot of weight.
The McNair program will teach you how to get into graduate school and what to do when you are there. At what price though? Time and effort. You will need to attend all the McNair workshops, meetings, and colloquiums, which totals to at least 15 hours a quarter. In addition, you will need to spend at least a few hours on your research every week. On top of that, you will probably spend at least an hour every week with your mentor. Participating in the McNair program is no small commitment. However, if you can make the commitment, then the pay-off is huge.
Out of all the graduation school admissions information programs I have been to, the McNair Scholars Program has helped me understand the process more than all the others combined. The program explained to us in great detail how to choose a graduate program, how to write personal statements and statements of purpose, how to prepare for the GRE, how to explain GRE scores in applications, how to contact faculty, and so forth. You name it, and the McNair Scholar Program will explain it. The acceptance record for scholars in the program is a testament to the quality and quantity of the information the McNair program provides regarding graduate school admissions.
Simply applying to graduate programs has been my greatest accomplishment in the McNair Program. Originally, I felt too pressured by work and my coursework to apply this year. I resigned myself to postpone applying until next year. However, I found the strength to apply this year thanks to the inspiration and motivation the McNair program lent me.
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.
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.
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