Our selection committee meets today to select our next group of McNair scholars. We’ve completed the interviews, reviewed the applications and we’re at the point in which we are going to have to make some really hard decisions. As we weigh each candidate and discuss their potential for achieving their Ph.D. and making the most of the McNair opportunity, I can’t help but think about how we are about to really impact the lives of the students that are selected.
It’s no secret that not all of our students will ultimately go on to achieve their Ph.D. That’s not the goal of McNair. The goal is to envelop our students in a certain experience made up exploring life goals, being exposed to new things such as doing original research, stretching one’s self mentally and sometimes physically. It’s about knowing that each of us has the choice to take our education to the level of a Ph.D. if we so choose. Our goal is to instill the confidence and knowledge needed so that every scholar knows this choice is open to them. Each scholar ultimately decides if this will be their path, but one thing is for sure, each scholar is going to be challenged, encouraged and supported in this vein throughout their experience with McNair.
As we select this next group of scholars, I’m keeping these things in mind. I always joke about how I wish I had a “crystal ball” in order to really know which students will make the most of this special opportunity. In the end I tend to do what I always do – go with my gut. That’s why the interviewing process is so so so important. For me, I’m listening to stories and ideas about the future, but I’m also feeling the energy – excitement about the unknown – about where this journey might take them. The best is when I get all goose bump-ly (which does actually happen) by what I’m hearing, seeing and feeling. That’s when the magic really happens for me.
I know, I know! Lots of people think it’s a bit hokey – they don’t buy into this notion of “destiny” and having something “meant to be.” But I sure do. I believe that each student that comes through the McNair experience – the McNair experience that we provide in particular – is meant to have this experience. They are meant to “test out” the experiences we offer. They are meant to grow and bond together with one another. They are meant to become more informed about their abilities and choices as they make decisions about their future and life work.
So, I’m excited that this process will be happening in about an hour. I’m also trusting that we will be making the best decisions possible for each person involved. Some will be asked to rise to the challenge of becoming a McNair scholar and, deep down, I know each of them will.