Warm fuzzies.

I just spent a few days straight with our McNair group and here’s what I learned:

Tom likes to wear t-shirts that say “noodle boy” on them. He’s got one sweet pair of boots. And he’s one of the most gentle and caring souls around.

Camila is brave and says, “me first,” when it comes to the high ropes. Impressive! You can count on Camila for a smile, but when she’s out, she’s down for the count!

Mara learned the words to a new song and she knows how to breath when it really matters. She’s a quiet giant, I think.

Brady, he’s got the moves, both in the air + on the ground. And he’s not shy about learning how to swing dance, that’s for sure. Swift on the water and a nice guy all around.

Rachel is the gel, she’s the warm + gooey insides of the group. She keeps things rolling with her generous and uplifting personality. If you are going on an adventure, take Rachel along for sure!

Donovan: all I can picture is Donovan floating along the water wrapped up tight in his bright blue life jacket surrounded by the girls. He’s such a great sport and I think bringing him along for the ride this time around is a great choice! He’s open + optimistic and is gonna help you out when you need it.

Holly is a leader and ain’t letting anything get her down. She’s a bit of a crazy girl who knows how to have fun. Plus, she’s got great hair!

You can tell this yooper loves her outdoors. Ashton is a whiz with the canoe and is one of the sweetest gals around.

Taylor R is quietly in-tune with the group and happy to be part of it. He’s ready to stretch his wings. Taylor is up for pretty much anything and enjoys a card game or two!

Kurt’s got an aux cord, he’s “pretty strong” and he’s got some moves. Just ask and he’ll teach you! And if you’re feeling a little “buggy,” Kurt’s your guy to hit up for support + guidance.

Taylor M‘s got it going when it comes to horses and Mortimer became her bud. She’s low key with an unassuming presence, but know that she’s got a lot of spunk and passion that lies right beneath.

Aaron knows the words to *most* songs, is my card-playing partner and a real trooper. His funnies pepper the group and we’re all the better for it.

Jazmin is a quiet observer but isn’t afraid to jump in on the fun. She loves being in a canoe (true or false?) and is a strong foundation for the group.

Jim is a great guy to hang out with and has a willingness + knack for teaching others that I think is really special. He’s got a lot of depth and is always willing to be the “tipper” when it comes to star-tipping, that is!

Kim, what can you really say about Kim? Except that she’s one dynamite partner in crime! She’s my rock and she’s the rock for our group. She takes such great care of us and we love her so much.

Arshia’s gonna hook in just fine! She’s a hoot to be around and will lend much to the group by way of her life experience and expertise. So happy that she could join us for our special retreat!

Jay’s like the “old wise one” that is sure to engage you in some brilliant, often wacky, conversation that you wouldn’t have imagined yourself having. He is a quiet observer with great skill for supporting and encouraging others. He likes to laugh, he’s apt to tell you how it is and he’s got a steady + caring presence.

I learned that I get the “warm fuzzies” when I think about our adventures these past few days. I learned that the 2015 CMU McNair scholars are ready to get things going on the grad school front and they are ready to grab hold of whatever the summer might bring. I’m excited to spend this special time together.

It’s a period of seed planting in my mind. Some seeds will surely be sprouting (and taking off!) this summer; others might be chillin’ in the soil for a while, only to peek out their pretty little heads when the timing is right on. In short, this is one terrific start to the summer. A summer during which our scholars will be hell-bent on figuring out their lives and then some.


Lynn. (like a boss)

One step (or shot!) at a time.

It’s happening.

And by that, I mean everything. Or at least it seems. This time of year is bittersweet (oh my gosh, it is!), what with scholars getting ready to move on to graduate school, some moving to new cities for summer research programs, and a whole new crop of scholars putting the finishing touches on their research proposals, just in time to begin the Summer Research Institute which, at its core, is about research, but so much more than that!

I sat in our McNair resource room the other day, surrounded by scholars at various stages in the process, they were talkative and sharing stories, the “younger” with the “older” students, passing along tidbits of wisdom here and there. I took a “snapshot” in my mind and felt all tingly with happiness as I soaked in the fruits of our work (if you can call it that).

A good friend and former McNair program assistant recently posted this on my timeline and pretty much sums things up:

I love to have lunch with the McNair scholars! It is always amazing to hear their stories—where they have come from, what they are doing, and where they are going! Today, I heard about Georgia Tech dreams and Harvard dreams come true!! I was even asked about my own classes and my running. You have the best job in the world and work with some amazing scholars, past and present! #mcnairscholarsrock

So that afternoon, there was Alli printing out her acceptance letter and full-ride offer to attend Indiana University Purdue University’s Ph.D. program in Neuroscience. Truth be told, she was having some trouble figuring out how to do that (I know, kinda funny). As it turns out, she discovered how they had included a self-addressed stamped envelope for her response, just after getting an envelope ready for such purpose herself. Alli is the kind of gal that just “goes with the flow” and so she laughed it off and continued on, talking about how she would be driving down to Indy that weekend to scope out apartments. Exciting!

We had Jay in the corner, appearing to be doing work, but still chiming in with the conversation. He’s been working with our new scholars on verbal prep for the GRE and will be doing more of that before taking off for his full-ride Ph.D. program in Genetics at Stony Brook University in New York. Amanda C sat next to me on our comfy couch and was sharing some insights post-acceptance into Harvard’s Ph.D. program in Chemical Biology … also fully-funded … come on, you know that I have to add that in!

The grad application process can be convoluted to say the least and it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes tenacity, optimism and a ton of fricking hard work. It’s not easy securing a full-ride to grad school, but just think about what that means if you can actually make it happen.

Full-ride @ Stony Brook for five years means $290,000 being handed to you for your education. Jay is getting over a quarter of a million dollars to go and study at one of the top-research institutions in our country to learn to become a top-researcher in his field and solve critical problems facing our society right now.

I don’t say this to brag (well, maybe, sorta) … but seriously … think about that. That’s the goal of McNair. For our scholars to develop themselves in such a way during their undergraduate career so as to be able to make choices, like attending a fully-funded Ph.D. program of their choice, if it makes sense and feels right within their career goals and trajectory.

Amanda’s key insight per successfully navigating the grad process: see through any bullshit. Love it! I posted this “little gem” on our quote wall in the resource room, and really, it can mean many things … but ultimately, we all have to see through both our own bullshit and the bullshit we might encounter along the way if we are going to arrive in a life filled with meaningful work.

On the receiving end of this advice, Christian was busy “navigating through” the process of solidifying a summer research position @ Georgia Tech. I’m happy to report that things eventually worked out, but not without a ton of proactive motion on Christian’s part. Sometimes, the situation needs to be “massaged” and sometimes the situation is “speaking to you” (often in code) to “get the eff out” and start trailblazing another path.

Faith and perseverance. It’s what it’s all about. Cliche but true.

I’m closing out on a high note by stating how our new McNair scholars absolutely hit it out of the park presenting their research proposals last week. So exciting! And nerve-wracking (mostly for them hehe) … and the product of lots of hard work with each of their faculty research mentors this past semester.

SIDE NOTE: We love our McNair faculty research mentors.

The group is poised to “bust things out” this summer and we can’t wait to see the process unfold. This group will also be exploring options for grad study so as to find themselves with full-ride offers for their Ph.D in the not so distant future.

2015 spring research symposium

2015 scholars rocking it out at the McNair Spring Research Symposium.

Crazy to think about, I know. As they say, it goes fast. And that’s why our scholars grab hold of the opportunities and try their hardest to make really good things happen while they can.

It’s happening right now.


Dr. Caitlin Demsky after defending her dissertation!

P.S. Just as I am putting the finishing touches on this post … I receive word… our most recent Ph.D. graduate from our CMU McNair Scholars Program!

Introducing: Dr. Caitlin Demsky (CMU McNair Scholar ’09), who attended Portland State University in I/O Psychology, received NSF’s graduate research fellowship and now has a tenure-track faculty position in the business school at Oakland University starting this fall.

Many congrats to Caitlin!!

It seems like just yesterday you were sitting in my office deciding whether you would pursue psychology or creative writing for your graduate study. Wow!