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Campus McNair Scholars Highlight Student/Faculty Collaboration

Published: February 1, 2010

A dozen McNair Scholars representing some of the most promising minds at CSULB presented two days of research recently before an audience of faculty, staff and administrators meeting in the Karl Anatol Center.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program hosted the 2009 McNair Scholars Research Presentations in a collaboration between the divisions of Student Services and Academic Affairs.

McNair Scholars are matched with faculty mentors whose research interests are related to the students’ interests. They participate in a research project under their mentors’ direction with a chance of receiving a competitive stipend of up to a $2,800. The scholars write an abstract and paper based on their research which will be published in the CSULB McNair Scholars’ Journal. They also are eligible for individualized tutorial assistance and may attend seminars on how to prepare for a doctorate, how to select the best school (“the perfect fit”) and how to obtain fellowships and assistantships instead of loans.

“The overarching goal of the McNair Scholars program is to produce Ph.D.s or E.D.s for teaching positions in colleges and universities across the nation,” said Howard Wray, executive director of Educational Equity Services and director of the McNair Scholars and Student Support Services programs. “What we do at CSULB is select students from low-income, first-generation, underrepresented groups and prepare them for graduate education. Scholars are selected based on their potential to be successful in graduate school and their motivation to attain a doctorate degree.”

Presentations included Loreno Romero on “Latino Identity and the Impending post Racial Era” overseen by Chicano and Latino Studies’ Victor Rodriguez; Janette Gradney on “Internet Valuation: New Data, New Era” with Finance’s Jasmine Yur-Austin; Rogelio Rosas on “A Comparative Study: Diesel Versus Biodiesel and the Effect of a Human Air System on NOx Emissions” led by Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s Hamid Rahai; Alfredo Garcia on “Color-Blind Ideology in Anti-Colonial Politics in Puerto Rico” overseen by Chicano and Latino Studies’ Rodriguez; Maria Flores on “Identifying Best Practices: Reading and Williams Syndrome” working with by English’s Carol Zitzer-Comfort; Massiel Trujillo on “Measuring the Critical Micelle Concentration of Hexadecylphoshocholine as a Function of Cavitand Additives Using Surface Tension and Dye Micellization” with Chemistry and Biochemistry’s Michael Schramm; and Michael Ramirez on “Metallic Nanoisland Morphology: Quantitative Analysis of Gold (Au) and Palladium (Pd) Multilayered Films” with Physics and Astronomy’s Chuhee Kwon; Marian Hilliard on “Face Work: The Importance of Cosmetics in African American Women’s Aesthetic” in research with Human Development’s Erylene Piper-Mandy; Jose Caprile on “Does Aspect Affect the Success of the Giant Whitefly?” after working with Biology’s Dessie Underwood; Daisy Sanchez on “Triserine Lactone Oxazoline Receptors for Organoammonium Ion Recognition” with Chemistry and Biochemistry’s Eric Marinez; Maria Cristina Rodriguez on “Importance of Faculty Interaction for Latino/Hispanic First Generation College Students” with Psychology’s Lisa Maxfield; and Nadia Castro on “Perceptions of the Abstract Gesture: Approaches to Gestural Abstraction in the Ceramics of Hamada Shoji” working with Art’s Kendall Brown.

“One of the keys to the McNair Scholars Program’s success is its strong faculty participation,” said Wray, who joined the university in 1988. “Faculty mentors provide hours of work one-on-one with their students.”

The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program is named in honor of the late Ronald E. McNair, a NASA astronaut and physicist who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and includes preparation for the Graduate Record Exam –– the test needed to get into graduate school.

By participating in presentations like these, McNair Scholars acquire a skill set that includes a solid knowledge about their areas of research. “They find themselves questioned by such a broad spectrum of experts that they really must know what they’re talking about,” said Wray. “As part of their preparation, students learn about oral presentation, how to package their research in a presentable fashion and how to use PowerPoint.”

This success is representative of the McNair Scholars Program’s overall excellence, Wray believes. He compared it to the return to CSULB as faculty members of two former McNair Scholars. Kagba Suaray, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in math from CSULB in 1999, joined the Mathematics and Statistics Department and Hannah-Hanh Nguyen, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from CSULB in 2000, joined the Psychology Department.

“We need a new crop of scholars,” Wray said, “and what better way could this country be equipped to handle the globalized 21st century than to have underrepresented students come back as faculty members?”

Wray encourages CSULB faculty members to become involved with the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. “It offers a rare opportunity for faculty members to work closely with undergraduate students on research projects that are of mutual interest to both parties,” he said. “Without faculty participation, there is no program. If faculty are not willing to step up to the plate to nominate students to the program and help mentor them, the students may never have this unique experience again in their lifetimes.”

–Richard Manly