SCHOLAR POST BY: Andy Derry
The purpose of this post is not just about my McNair Scholars Program journey, but it is advice for current and future scholars and anyone who has goals they want to achieve. When hard work is put in, the rewards can be great.
Hard to believe a little over a year ago I was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program, and I set my eyes on graduate school. I had no idea the amount of work in store for me, and more importantly, I did not anticipate the friendships and memories I would make along the way. What is the main point of the program? It is designed to help first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students develop the tools and their potential to succeed in obtaining a doctoral degree. I knew this going in, and I was ready to “full court press” and get into graduate school.
At this point, I have done everything I could to get into graduate school. Still a little unsure of which program I will select (Master’s in Health Promotion or Doctoral in Exercise Physiology/Space Life), I am confident that I will have the privilege to select my school when decisions are made. Getting to this point was not a walk in the park – I began to work hard right from the beginning knowing that the McNair Scholars Program was going to provide the assistance along the way. I jumped at any opportunity to build my resume and develop connections with faculty. Because of the hard work and persistence I put in, I am in a good position.
During the spring, before the intensive summer research institute began, my cohort was working on developing our research proposals. However, I was already thinking further ahead on networking with faculty. Knowing who I wanted to work with at Texas A&M University, I set up contacts and visited the university as well as the neighboring Johnson Space Center over spring break. This opportunity gave me the chance to put a face to my name, learn more about the program, and know if A&M was the right fit for me. You can look at a website for countless hours, but you cannot get the feel of the university until you actually visit. Sadly, I was not able to meet with Dr. Bloomfield, my number one choice for my mentor, but I did not get discouraged.
Here is where the benefits of networking come in! I made a connection with Dr. Smith at the Space Center, and he personally emailed Dr. Bloomfield to tell her to contact me. Over the early summer, we had a phone interview and made our first connection. At the same time, I was putting lots of hours into my summer research and preparing to take the GRE. When summer ended, I found another program I was interested in pursuing in health promotion and built my resume and connections with faculty. To further my credentials, I began a teacher training to become a certified yoga teacher which will be completed at the end of February. When my applications were being completed, I reached out to Dr. Bloomfield again, and having already made an initial contact, she asked to have a Skype interview. The interview was successful and at the end, I was given conditional acceptance and will know the final answer on January 10.
So, this is where I stand now. I have done everything possible to build my credentials and network with faculty. I would not be here without the hard work put in, and although at times I doubted myself, I did not give up when times were rough. I have a decision ahead of me to make, but I know what my gut is telling me – I am just not ready to reveal it yet! Although this post was about my journey in the McNair Scholars Program, it is a testament for reaching any goals that we set for ourselves. Things will not just happen without putting forth the effort.
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