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!