CSUF McNair Director Honored as Outstanding Staff Member

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Gerald Bryant, center, interacts with McNair Scholars. Photo: Matt Gush

Gerald Bryant Honored as Outstanding Staff Member

By Mimi Ko Cruz, University of California Fullerton Staff Writer | Originally posted on June 13, 2012

Gerald Bryant credits mentors for his success at work, in school and in life.

Today, he serves as a mentor himself as director of the university’s Ronald E. McNair Scholars program. Under Bryant’s tutelage over the past dozen years, 81 McNair Scholars have gone on to complete master’s degrees, nine have earned doctoral degrees and 38 are presently enrolled in doctoral studies, many with full scholarships.

For their success and for his care for, guidance and mentorship of McNair Scholars, Bryant has been chosen one of three recipients of this year’s Outstanding Staff Award — the highest university honor bestowed on staff members. The other two are Mony Nhong, analyst and programmer in the Information Technology Division, and Thao Nguyen, an information technology consultant in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Thanks to mentors who guided him through college and career, Bryant said he’s landed in the perfect job — one where he carefully pairs undergrads with inspiring faculty mentors, who help prepare them for admission and success in grad school.

“You can’t do it on your own,” he tells his charges. “You have to have a network, you have to have resources. That’s what the McNair program provides for underserved and underrepresented students.”

Another lesson Bryant instills in the scholars is that “life throws you many curves, so you always have to be aware of change and embrace it. You must be able to improvise.”

Bryant, a Vietnam veteran, said he learned to improvise when he narrowly escaped death five times in his life, four times as a civilian and once on the battlefield, when his plane was shot down over Vietnam.

“Because of those experiences, I have a whole different view of life,” he said. “I look at it through a different lens. I have been given so much in life, so I feel it’s my responsibility to give back. Passing on what I know to students is so rewarding for me. I have the best job in the world because I realize I’m touching the future leaders of the world. And, the little input I have to give them will make a difference somewhere down the line.”

Gratitude from Alumni

Past and present scholars wholeheartedly endorse Bryant, praising him for everything he teaches them and for opening doors for them.

Alumna Suzette M. Puente (B.S. mathematics ’10) said she greatly benefited from being a McNair Scholar.

“I honestly don’t know where I would be without the McNair program,” Puente said. “Because of the program, I was presented with many research opportunities, but most importantly, it taught me how to be proactive about my education and achieving my academic goals.”

With the completion of her undergraduate degree, Puente had her choice of doctoral programs. She now is studying at UC Berkeley with a full scholarship.

Carmen J. Cortez (B.S. biological science ’09), agrees. Cortez is studying in the ecology doctoral program at UC Davis with a $101,500 National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant that she garnered as a McNair senior.

“In my freshman year, I heard Gerald Bryant talk about graduate school, the McNair program, the importance of undergraduate research and the opportunities we have here at Cal State Fullerton,” explained Cortez, who attributed her success winning the NSF grant to Bryant and the McNair program.

“It’s all about good mentors,” he said. “That’s the overarching thing. I’m the son of a steel mill worker and my high school counselor told me college was not for me, that I should work with my father, but my mother told me otherwise. I followed her advice and that of many other mentors. They saw something in me.”

Kudos from Colleagues

Jeremiah W. Moore, assistant to the vice president for student affairs, called Bryant “an inspirational leader and exemplary role model.”

In a letter of recommendation for Bryant, Benjamin J. Hubbard, emeritus professor of comparative religion, wrote that when he served as chair of the McNair Faculty Advisory Board from 2000-2005, he was impressed by the former Air Force captain.

“It was always his students — his scholars — that mattered to Gerald,” Hubbard noted. “He cared for them, guided them and was immensely proud of their accomplishments.”

More About the McNair Director

Bryant, who lives in Glen Ivy with his wife, Romelia Madrigal-Bryant, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tennessee State University and an MBA from National University. He is a doctoral candidate in education administration at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

A motivational speaker often asked to appear before community and youth groups, Bryant has presented at hundreds of high school, university and community events, and has served as a facilitator for diversity training for the California Department of Social Services.

Before joining CSUF, Bryant was director of Upward Bound at the College of the Siskiyous in Northern California.

A former president of 100 Black Men of Sacramento, he was a member of the National Board of Directors for 100 Black Men of America, Inc. and presently serves as the Western Regional Mentor Trainer for 100 Black Men of America, Inc., in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Bryant, president of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi at CSUF, is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

June 13, 2012





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