McNair Scholars Wed, 10 Feb 2021 01:39:18 +0000 en hourly 1 Mom’s Ailment Inspires Trustees’ Winner to Pursue Research Wed, 10 Feb 2021 01:36:55 +0000

Kayla Nguyen knows first-hand the challenges that come with being a first-generation college student. For Nguyen, it’s occasionally compounded by being a first-generation American.

One of those challenges was trying to explain to her family why she is pursuing her Ph.D. after she graduates from Cal State San Marcos with a bachelor’s in biotechnology next May.

“It’s hard because I have to explain it in Vietnamese and I don’t know any of the words for things like ‘grad school’ or ‘neuroscience research,’ those type of things,” said Nguyen, whose family immigrated from Vietnam in the 1980s. “No one ever says those things.”

Nguyen overcame that particular obstacle with some help from Google Translate. She has become adept at overcoming obstacles since graduating from high school seven years ago, when she had to juggle school and three jobs to help her ailing mother.

Nguyen is being recognized this week for her accomplishments with the 2020 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, the California State University’s highest recognition of student accomplishment. Students are selected for demonstrating superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need.

The CSU recognizes 23 students every year – one from each CSU campus – with the Trustees’ Award, which includes a donor-funded scholarship ranging from $6,000 to $15,000. Nguyen received a scholarship of $9,000 for being named a Hampton Scholar, bestowed upon the Trustee scholar who scored the third highest among all applicants.

Nguyen and other awardees will be recognized during a ceremony as part of the CSU Board of Trustees virtual meeting on Sept. 22.

“In my 17 years of mentoring students in my lab, Kayla is one of the most positive and hard-working students I have had the pleasure to mentor,” said biology professor Bianca Mothé. “She is always bringing new energy and ideas.”

Nguyen was inspired to pursue scientific research to help families like hers that are affected by uncurable diseases and disorders. Her mother, Kimlien, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis soon after Nguyen graduated from Mira Mesa High School in 2013. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the lining of a person’s joints, causing painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. In severe cases, it can affect a person’s internal organs.

Kimlien’s symptoms started with pain in her hands. She assumed it was the more common osteoarthritis, which is caused by mechanical wear and tear on the joints. But the family realized it was something more serious when it progressed from hand pain to Kimlien falling down stairs.

Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, medication can help manage the pain and inflammation. But Kimlien’s medication wasn’t covered by her health insurance, leading Nguyen to work three jobs and take a break from Miramar College to focus on her mom’s health and help with the $1,000 monthly medication costs.

When Nguyen returned to Miramar, a chemistry professor encouraged her to apply for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program, a year-long internship based at CSUSM in partnership with Miramar and MiraCosta colleges.

It wasn’t just Nguyen’s work in the program that stood out, but also her compassion for her colleagues.

“While she was a CIRM Bridges intern, their cohort experienced a traumatic event,” said Mothé, the program director. “Kayla was the first one to emerge with support for her fellow interns.

“Since being in my lab, she has developed her own project on a topic related to my specific expertise. She researched, thought through and brought the project to me. This is quite unique for an undergraduate. Kayla is the type of curious, motivated team player who brings me so much joy.”

Nguyen continued to gain research experience through internships in the academic lab of Lawrence S.B. Goldstein at UC San Diego last year and over the summer at Johnson & Johnson.

Throughout each internship, Nguyen’s peers and mentors stressed the importance of pursuing a graduate degree.

“I kept hearing that and I was like, ‘Yeah, but I need to work now. I need to make money now because it’s not OK the way that we’re living,’ ” Nguyen said. “And they said, ‘Yeah, but in the long run, you don’t want to be someplace and hit a ceiling because don’t have the degree.’ ”

Nguyen took the advice to heart and started exploring what it would mean to attend graduate school. In the process, she learned about CSUSM’s TRIO McNair Scholars Program, which prepares low-income, first-generation undergraduates and undergraduates from underrepresented groups for graduate school.

McNair Scholars are expected to have a commitment to pursuing a graduate degree, something Nguyen still wasn’t completely sold on when she began the application process. But the McNair team – including director Denise Garcia, assistant director Ray Malfavon-Borja and adviser Vicky Yan – explained that the program’s research opportunities would help Nguyen become more confident in her abilities while simultaneously lessening her financial burden through a program stipend.

“It ended up really changing my life and changing my perspective,” she said. “Being around all these other phenomenal students who work really, really hard and are in similar situations as I am – also first-generation college students – I realized, ‘OK, I’m not alone.’ They really inspired me and helped me realize that if they can do it, I can do it.”

As part of the McNair program, Nguyen will apply to at least 10 graduate programs. She is hoping to stay local – the Scripps Research Institute is among her top choices – to remain close to her mother and grandmother. But a university in Oregon, where her father, sister, brother-in-law and nephew live, is another possibility.

Regardless of where she lands, Nguyen now has the confidence to take that next step.

“I’m really grateful for all these experiences that really shaped my perspective of life,” she said. “And I feel really grateful that I’m on a path where I’m passionate about all the things that I do. I feel like that’s really a blessing for me.”

~ The original story written by Eric Breier was posted on September 21, 2020 on

COE Policy Seminar Virtual March 22-24, 2021 Wed, 10 Feb 2021 01:06:40 +0000

Virtual Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education — Monday, March 22, 2021

Take advantage of this opportunity to hear from the new Biden Administration and learn about its higher education priorities. This seminar for administrators in postsecondary institutions and community agencies provides information on:

  • U.S. Department of Education policies;
  • U.S. Department of Educational fiscal and programmatic regulations and reporting requirements;
  • The latest information on TRIO regulations; and
  • The outlook for upcoming TRIO grant competitions.

For questions on the Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education, please contact Angelica Vialpando at (

Virtual Policy Seminar — Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23-24, 2021

TRIO United for a New Era — COE’s 40th Annual Policy Seminar affords the TRIO community the opportunity to help educate Members of Congress, congressional staff, and others about the history and the success of federal college access and success programs. This event gives participants a chance to represent the interests of low-income and first-generation students and veterans, adult learners, and students with disabilities in the policy arena.

Important Note — The TRIO Alumni Leadership Forum and Seminar on Relations with the Department of Education will not involve any lobbying activities; however, certain aspects of the Policy Seminar will involve such activity. Therefore, federal grantees must allocate costs for these separate activities appropriately and in a manner consistent with their institutional policies. Please contact Angelica Vialpando at ( or Kimberly Jones at (, if you have questions.

Bring your TRIO alumni to the Policy Seminar! — Alumni participation at this event will give graduates the skills they need to be TRIO advocates at the local, state, and national levels. COE staff are delighted to help TRIO directors provide fulfilling policy experiences in Washington for their students when they are on school breaks. Students should not miss school in order to attend the Policy Seminar.

Registration Instructions and Deadlines

For individuals participating in the Policy Seminar and/or Department of Education Seminar, online registration at is strongly encouraged. Online registrants will receive an immediate receipt. Click here to register online.

All registrations not completed online must include a credit card payment, check, or purchase order to be accepted.

Special Discount — If you attended last year’s Policy Seminar and bring a newcomer to Policy with you, the newcomer can register for half off of his/her regular registration rate (Member or Non-Member). These registration forms must be submitted by fax at the same time. There is no online registration for this special offer.

If you bring a member of your institution’s Government Relations staff or campus/institutional leadership, their registration for Policy Seminar only is also half off his/her regular registration price. This does not include the Seminar with the Department of Education. Registration for this special discount must be submitted by fax — there is no online registration for this special offer. Download the paper registration form Document is available for download (.pdf).

Important Note — This half-price discount does not apply if you are registering for only the Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education.

Paper Registration — Registrations not completed online must be postmarked or faxed with purchase order, check, or credit card payment by Monday, March 1, 2021, to receive the pre-registration discount. For questions about registration and payment, please contact COE’s business and finance department via e-mail to ( or phone at (202) 347-7430.

Refund Policy — Registration fees paid in advance are refundable (less processing fee of $250) if written notice of cancellation is received/faxed on or before January 31, 2021. No refund requests will be accepted after this date. All refunds will be made after the seminars. Return by mail or fax to: Council for Opportunity in Education; P.O. Box 742282; Atlanta, GA 30374; Fax — (202) 628-3726.

Important Dates

Deadline for Early Bird Discount — January 31, 2021Deadline to Register for Alumni Forum — Friday, March 19, 2021

TRIO Alumni Leadership Forum — Saturday, March 20, 2021
Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education — Monday, March 22, 2021
Policy Seminar — Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23-24, 2021

Solana Beach scholar accepted to UC Berkeley McNair Scholars Program Wed, 10 Feb 2021 00:55:47 +0000

A Solana Beach scholar and native of Oaxaca, Mexico, has earned a place in the prestigious national Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program to advance her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley.

Karla “Ranger” Trujillo, former program and marketing director for La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc., will complete and publish independent research as a McNair Scholar ahead of her anticipated graduation from Berkeley in 2022. The award will help Trujillo move toward earning a master’s degree and ultimately a doctoral degree in education. 

The advanced degrees will complement Trujillo’s work as an anthropologist during the past 20 years.

In addition to her undergraduate studies, Trujillo serves at Berkeley’s statewide office for the University Community Links Network.

In Solana Beach, Trujillo partnered with La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc. to create Teenology Rangers, a youth and family leadership program based on science, art and nature.

“Her leadership, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, ethics and values have helped us to serve our community in a more significant and meaningful way,” said President Manny Aguilar. “She promotes trust with our native community.”

As a child, Trujillo attended public schools in Carlsbad. Later, she earned associate’s degrees from MiraCosta College in anthropology and university studies. Her education began in a rural town in Oaxaca. At an early age, she developed a passion to unite and serve.

As a McNair Scholar, her research will focus on how to provide tools for youth and family members to better develop as healthy individuals despite trauma that may be suffered. Trujillo’s Teenology Rangers program has demonstrated the power of science, art and nature as tools to strengthen relationships and build identity.

Trujillo herself has persevered despite the challenges of her undocumented status during the past 28 years. She attributes her resilience to having become a master of delayed gratification.

“It has been difficult but if I can do it, anyone can,” Trujillo said. “It is our duty to reach for the stars in honor of Ronald B. McNair.”

Ronald E. McNair was an American NASA astronaut and physicist. After his death in the Challenger explosion in 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald B. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage students from underrepresented groups in fields of higher learning.

Learn more at

~ The original story was posted on January 15, 2021 on 

Winthrop University Receives National First-gen Forward Designation Sun, 09 Aug 2020 15:58:59 +0000

~ The original story was posted on the Winthrop University website

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education – and The Suder Foundation, has designated Winthrop University as one of its 2021-22 First-gen Forward Institutions. 

The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences and a first look at the center’s research and resources.

“As a first-generation college graduate, I am keenly aware of the challenges associated with navigating higher education: the use of unfamiliar terminology, the assumption that one knows how to ‘do’ college, or that one even knows what questions to ask,” said Shelia Burkhalter, Winthrop’s vice president for student affairs.

“Student Affairs is excited to work with TRiO Achievers Program, the McNair Scholars program and the rest of the Winthrop community to think more strategically about serving first-gen students at Winthrop,” she continued. “While we look forward to advancing the success of first-generation students, the student success literature confirms that efforts to advance first-generation students will ultimately benefit all students on campus.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 33 percent of higher education students today are the first in their family to attend college. Winthrop mirrors the national statistic, Burkhalter said, noting that approximately one-third of Winthrop students identify as first-generation, when defined as a student whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have not completed a bachelor’s degree.

That population includes Imani Belton, an integrated marketing communication major and chair of the Council of Student Leaders (CSL), Winthrop’s student government body.

“Throughout my time at Winthrop, I’ve been able to connect with first-generation faculty, staff and students, which has made my collegiate experience 10 times better because of bonds we’ve created,” she said. “Being a first-generation student is a point of pride for me and other Winthrop students who have benefitted from learning on a campus that provides outreach and services for students like us.”

Winthrop has already made significant strides in first-generation student support and outcomes:

*The TRiO Achievers Program has supported first-generation students for more than 15 years, providing students with a variety of services such as personalized academic counseling, tutoring, individualized needs assessment and more.

*Since 2009, the McNair Scholars program has prepared first-generation, low-income and underrepresented undergraduates to be successful in Ph.D. programs through research, extensive support, and transformational opportunities throughout the junior and senior years.

*Within the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of the Vice President as well as the Diversity and Student Engagement office facilitate events to celebrate first-generation students and graduates (for example, among the faculty and staff) and to raise awareness regarding issues impacting first-generation student success.

“Through the application process, it was evident that Winthrop University is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Winthrop, contact Burkhalter at or Kinyata Adams Brown at

About NASPA and the Center for First-gen Student Success

NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education—is the leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories. The Center for First-generation Student Success is the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students. Visit and for more information.

Baylor’s Graduating Cohort Prepares for Impressive Graduate Program Plans Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:55:24 +0000

Of the 16 graduating Baylor University McNair Scholars, 13 will continue their education this fall at prestigious graduate programs throughout the country and at Baylor in a variety of fields, including psychology, microbiology, library science and health studies.

Baylor McNair Scholars Program wraps up second year and announces new students

By Kaitlyn Rieper, marketing specialist, Baylor Marketing and Brand Strategy

WACO, Texas (May 4, 2020) – The Baylor University Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, known nationally as the McNair Scholars Program, is wrapping up an impressive 2019-2020 academic year with an inaugural national McNair Research Conference held in September and Baylor’s largest graduating cohort of McNair Scholars.

The program prepares low-income, first-generation and other underrepresented students to gain the knowledge and skills required to successfully navigate a path to a Ph.D. program following graduation through immersion in research and a variety of scholarly activities.

Baylor McNair Scholars are paired with faculty mentors who help guide student research and encourage academic development. Students can apply to be a McNair Scholar as early as their sophomore year.

“From our inaugural class to now, our McNair Scholars continue to be inspiring students,” said Steven Fernandez, director of the McNair Scholars Program at Baylor. “A huge benefit of the program is being able to break down some of the intimidating aspects of pursuing graduate school. Our faculty mentors are particularly key in supporting and inspiring our students and opening up opportunities for them in all fields.”

Of the 16 graduating McNair Scholars, 13 will continue their education this fall at prestigious graduate programs throughout the country and at Baylor in a variety of fields, including psychology, microbiology, library science and health studies.

Jesse Martinez, a fall 2019 graduate, took advantage of the spring semester to work as a research technician in a Baylor chemistry lab before he heads to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall as a chemistry doctoral candidate. He also has received Wisconsin’s Pei Wang Fellowship.

“Baylor’s McNair program had a direct hand in the number of graduate schools I applied to. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the resources, or likely the motivation, to apply to 10 graduate programs,” Martinez said.

Martinez recently received Honorable Mention for the 2020 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The NSF awards Honorable Mentions to meritorious applicants who did not receive Fellowship awards, but are recognized for significant academic achievement, making Honorable Mentions prestigious for the highly competitive NSF GRFP.

“Additionally, they supported my research not only in the lab, but at conferences and symposiums by bringing relevant events to my attention and helping me plan,” Martinez said. “During these conferences, I was able to meet key leaders in my respective field and make an early impression on them. I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t have received as many acceptances and fellowships as I did without the support offered by the McNair program.”

Graduating Scholars were accepted to top research graduate programs across the nation —Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, UCLA, UT Southwestern Medical Center, the University of Missouri, Colorado State University, Purdue University and more — with three of the scholars choosing to stay at Baylor in the fall to pursue degrees through the Baylor Graduate School.

“I was blessed to have been accepted to various graduate programs. I chose to stay at Baylor due to the experience I have had with Baylor faculty and staff. The McNair Scholars Program surrounded me with loving and supportive people who consistently encouraged, advised and invested their time into my success,” said Treasure Ramirez, McNair Doctoral Fellowship recipient who will be returning to Baylor in the fall as a doctoral candidate.

“I was gifted the opportunity to work with an unbelievably understanding, patient and dedicated faculty member, Dr. Emily Smith, professor of epidemiology and global health,” Ramirez said. “She helped me uncover what was always within myself: my light, my passion, my vision and most of all, my voice. Since I will be continuing my education at Baylor, I will be able to conduct research with Dr. Smith and many other impactful faculty members.”

The program, named for the late NASA astronaut and laser physicist Dr. Ronald E. McNair, supports 25 students each year through a Department of Education-funded grant. As the graduating Scholars look forward to continuing their academic studies, a new cohort is preparing to dive into research with their faculty mentors.

“We’ve had a very exciting year, and we are thrilled to be closing it out with such an accomplished and academically gifted group of students. Being able to watch these students grow and find the right path for them has been incredible. I know that they will continue doing amazing things,” Fernandez said. “The McNair Scholars Program is looking forward the next group of brilliant Baylor students.”

New McNair Scholars Announced

The 2020-2021 cohort of McNair Scholars and their faculty mentors:

  • Victoria Anozie, junior psychology major, faculty mentor: JoAnn Tsang, Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Triniti Armstrong, senior mechanical engineering major, faculty mentor: Michael Korpi, Ph.D., film and digital media.
  • Vincent Bozinov, senior neuroscience major, faculty mentor: Michael Scullin, Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Ryley Bruggeman, sophomore anthropology major, faculty mentor: Kelli Barr, Ph.D., biology.
  • Erin Cleary, senior health, kinesiology and leisure studies major, faculty mentor: Jason Paltzer, Ph.D., public health.
  • Nathan Cumberbatch, senior neuroscience major, faculty mentor: Michael Scullin., Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Princess Dang, sophomore political science major, faculty mentor not yet selected.
  • Jennifer De La Fuente, senior Latin American studies major, faculty mentor: Victor J. Hinojosa, Ph.D., Baylor Honors College.
  • Carla-Cristina Edwards, senior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.
  • Gabriela Fierro, senior environmental science, faculty mentor: Brian Thomas, electrical and computer engineering.
  • Tierra Foley, junior engineering major, faculty mentor: Keith E. Schubert, Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering.
  • Kaylee Hogness, junior anthropology major, faculty mentor: Davide Zori, Ph.D., Baylor Interdisciplinary Core.
  • Melissa Leon Norena, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.
  • Andrew Lindbloom, junior anthropology major, faculty mentor: Alan Schultz, Ph.D., anthropology.
  • Sophia Lopez, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Bessie Kebaara, Ph.D., biology.
  • Ethan Reyes, junior math major, faculty mentor: Robert Kirby, Ph.D., mathematics.
  • Alexis Simmons, junior physics and math major, faculty mentor: Jeffrey Olafsen, Ph.D., physics.
  • Batool Unar Syed, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

UNCG Honored for First-Generation Student Success Sun, 15 Mar 2020 21:09:10 +0000

~ The original story was written by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications on March 4, 2o20 was posted on the UNC Greensboro News website.
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications

UNC Greensboro is among a cohort of academic institutions nationwide being recognized for their commitment to supporting first-generation students. UNCG joins 76 other institutions in the cohort and is one of three North Carolina universities to receive the designation this year.

The Center for First-generation Student Success made the announcement on March 2. The center is an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education – and The Suder Foundation.

By federal definition, a first-generation student is a student whose parent or guardian did not graduate from a four-year institution.

The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the center’s research and resources.

“Now, in its second year, First-gen Forward institutions continue to lead the nation by their commitment to first-generation student success,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. “The 2020-21 cohort consists of diverse institutions across the nation, and we are pleased to welcome UNC Greensboro for their long-term commitment and demonstrated strategies for scaling first-generation student initiatives.”

As a First-gen Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be able to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop to be held in Baltimore in June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more. After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the Advisory leadership designation.

“We are very excited to be one of the few schools in the state of North Carolina with this designation, and we want prospective students to see our desire to serve them and help them to be successful,” said Kelli Thomas, coordinator for Residence Life, who started UNCG’s First G at the G program and leads it alongside Shelley Wald, associate dean of students. “This designation honors the work of so many staff, faculty, and other students that have given their time and efforts to promote and advocate for first-generation students at UNCG. It is our desire that this recognition from NASPA inspires more students to proudly identify as first-gen and encourages more support for the students in our community.”

UNCG strives to be a leader in maximizing student success, opportunity, and access and was recently ranked as the top university in North Carolina for social mobility by U.S. News & World Report. In the fall of 2019, 31% of UNCG students were first-generation, and 25% of those students were considered to be from low-income backgrounds. The University offers multiple programs, events, and aid to support these students. Below is a list of some of these offerings.

  • Student Support Services This TRiO support program is designed to maximize academic performance for UNCG students who are first-generation students from modest income backgrounds, or who have a documented disability and demonstrate an academic need for services. Services include individual instruction in the development of academic skills; personalized academic counseling, financial aid literacy counseling, graduate/professional school guidance, and career coaching; and one-on-one tutoring in up to two courses each semester. The program is one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the nation. 211 students are in the program and 90% are first-generation.
  • McNair Scholars Program This federally funded TRiO program prepares undergraduate first-generation students from low-income backgrounds and students who are members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in graduate studies for the pursuit of doctoral degrees. UNCG’s McNair Scholars Program has 49 total participants, with 33 being first-generation students.
  • First G at the G This is a week-long series of events in November to help first-generation students learn about campus resources and connect with each other, faculty, and staff. The goal of the week is to make the transition into college easier for first-generation students.
  • Guarantee Scholars Program  As UNCG’s flagship student success program, it provides its participants a financial aid package that minimizes student debt, community learning experiences outside of the classroom, and personalized support though mentorship. This program works alongside its students to identify barriers to student success and develop innovative community-focused solutions. 75% of students in the program identify as first-generation.

“By being part of First G at UNCG, I am more aware of how first-generation students are impacted on college campuses and the amount of resources that are available to them,” said Kiara Hickman, president of the 1stG student organization.

Learn more about UNCG’s first-generation efforts at

Learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success at


UCF McNair Alum Aims to Improve Lives of Foster Teens Sun, 15 Mar 2020 20:06:21 +0000

Karla Badillo-Urquiola ’14 ’15MS strives to break stereotypes through her work and her community activism.

The awards are piling up for UCF McKnight Fellow Karla Badillo-Urquiola ’14 ’15MS who in the past two months has been named a McKnight Award winner and an Order of Pegasus Award recipient.

Badillo-Urquiola, a doctoral candidate in modeling and simulation, is committed to academic excellence, diversifying the STEM field and making an impact in her community.

Badillo-Urquiola’s research focuses on investigating the challenges teens in the foster care system face online and ways to empower them to have more control of their online safety.

“Teens in the foster care system are some of the most vulnerable to the most serious online sexual risks, such as sex trafficking,” says Badillo-Urquiola, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in modeling and simulation.  “My goal is to understand the ‘why’ and ‘how,’ and find tangible solutions to help them engage safely online.”

Seeking to understand teens within the foster community does not end in the lab. Through her volunteer work with the Foundation for Foster Children, she connects with teens and ensures her work is grounded in their reality.

“I want to have a direct impact on the people I interact with daily,” says Badillo-Urquiola, who also serves as an ambassador for an anti-sex trafficking nonprofit organization. To her it is invaluable to first understand her “users” before interpreting her data.

The Russell V. Ewald Academic Excellence and Order of Pegasus Awards are presented to students who sufficiently demonstrate their commitment to academic excellence and to community service; Badillo-Urquiola uniquely takes this initiative to heart by improving her research through her community service, and she hopes in the end helping the community.

As a Latina, she takes pride in being a role model for minority women and breaking stereotypes through her academic work and community activism. Badillo-Urquiola says she is no stranger to the assumptions that can often arise because of gender, ethnicity and her identity as a mother. She is expecting her second child while balancing the pursuit of a doctorate degree.

There tends to be an unspoken rule that you must choose between the roles of mother and student, and the current climate of STEM does little to dispel this mentality, she says.

“In academia we have this sense of culture where you have to be ‘more professional’ and family doesn’t seem to fit into that mentality,” says Badillo-Urquiola.

But Badillo-Urquiola is an example that being an excellent professional and having a family is achievable. After earning her degree, she plans on becoming a tenured professor.

She says that when she succeeds, she will join the 1 percent of Latinas nationwide that are tenured faculty at universities.

She will be presenting her research during Student Research Week March 30-April 3.


~ The original story was written by Simone Rosseau on February 26, 2020, in UCF Today. 


Congratulations to the Newly Elected McNair Association of Professionals Officers Sun, 15 Mar 2020 19:44:43 +0000  












Dear MAP Members,

I am thrilled to see the momentum and excitement for the launch of the McNair Association of Professionals (MAP)! At the 2020 MPPI conference, we held our first officer elections and now have a full officer team:
Additionally, at MPPI we held our first Annual Business Meeting for MAP. Attached please find the slides from this meetings.
Committee Work – Call for Chairs and Members
In order for MAP to be the organization we envision – one that supports, empowers, and elevates the work of McNair staff – we need YOUR help! The Organizational Committee has spent the past year creating the structure and framework for MAP. Now, the real work will begin with our committees. If you are interested in serving on or chairing a MAP committee, please fill out this formby Saturday, February 15th. Short descriptions of the committees can be found within the survey or in the attached slides. Full descriptions of the committees can be found in our Constitution and By-Laws.
Finally, I want to formally thank the Organizational Committee (listed below) for the work they have done behind the scenes over the past year to make MAP a reality.
  • “Tina” Maria Tavera, Augsburg University
  • Steven Fernandez, Baylor University
  • Isabela Corzo, Florida International University
  • Clyde Wilson, Jr., Oklahoma State University
  • Abraham Pena-Talamantes, Suffolk University
  • Jon Crider, Texas Tech University
  • Juan Estevera-Martinez, University of California, Berkeley
  • Michael Aldarondo-Jeffries, University of Central Florida
  • Anthony Albecker, University of Minnesota
  • Jeremy Bloss, University of Missouri
  • Cammi Valdez, Wellesley College
Without the countless hours, the Organizational Committee put into the creation of MAP, we would not be able to move this organization forward. Thank you again for all of the work you have done to sustain the vision of having such an organization to support McNair staff!
Should you have any questions about MAP or the committee work, please do not hesitate to contact me ( or any members of the officer team. We are excited about this next phase of MAP!
Cammi Valdez, Ph.D.
President, McNair Association of Professionals (MAP)


Cammi Valdez, Ph.D.
Director, McNair Scholars Program
Faculty, Biological Sciences
COE Policy Seminar now Virtual Event Sun, 15 Mar 2020 19:27:33 +0000

As you know, the pandemic known as the coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to communities across the globe, yet, the needs of our students — particularly during this time of crisis — never cease.

Because the health and safety of our community is paramount, COE has moved portions of the 2020 Policy Seminar to an online format. More specifically, the Seminar on Relations Document is available for download (.pdf) with the U.S. Department of Education (“ED Seminar”) will take place virtually on Monday, March 23, and the two-day event officially known as the Policy Seminar Document is available for download (.pdf) will take place virtually on March 24-25 as initially planned. Unfortunately, our National College Opportunity Programs Leadership Summit (“Leadership Summit”) and TRIO Alumni Relations Forum, both scheduled for Sunday, March 22, are cancelled for this year.

Because of the virtual nature of the event, COE is re-opening registration for the Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education and Policy Seminar through Thursday, March 19, so that unregistered attendees may sign up to participate.

If you have not already, please click here to register online for the virtual ED Seminar and Policy Seminar. You may also download the registration form by clicking here Document is available for download (.pdf).

Click here Document is available for download (.pdf) for a list of Policy Seminar 2020 frequently asked questions.

Sonoma State McNair Scholar With Fellowship Shares Insights Sun, 15 Mar 2020 18:59:48 +0000 With Lopez’s time at SSU coming to an end, he said he wouldn’t be where he is without the small university.

Raymundo Lopez, who is on track to receive a degree in both political science and French from Sonoma State this spring, has overcome many obstacles in his life, including spending his childhood in the foster care system with his four brothers and sisters.

Since coming to Sonoma State in 2014, Lopez, who grew up and relocated numerous times in the San Diego area, says he has drawn on his past experiences to motivate him to help others. Lopez has conducted research on the legislative process and equity in the electoral arena and has even interned for the Center for Civil and Political Rights in Africa addressing human rights concerns.

“I think for me, coming from the foster care system, my whole theme and my journey throughout college, and in my research, has been the disenfranchised,” said Lopez. “I think that’s just part of my identity.”

In honor of his work and accomplishments, the American Political Science Association has named Lopez a Minority Fellowship Program Fellow for 2020-2021. The fellowship, established in 1969 to increase the number of under-represented scholars in political science fields, will help Lopez get into a Ph.D. program where he wants to research into Latino politics and minority rights.

Part of that research has already begun with Lopez’s work as a McNair Scholar where he is assessing electoral rights in U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, American Samoa and Guam. As a McNair Scholar, Lopez is one of only 28 students selected each year, typically underserved financially or underrepresented ethnically, to receive assistance on making the transition from undergraduate to graduate or Ph.D. work.

“Ray is such an exemplary student and has really tapped into all the resources available to him on campus,” said Daniel Malpica, director of the McNair Scholars Program at SSU. “He has had to deal with so many barriers, but he always figures out how to jump over them. He understands that as a first-generation student you need a support system and to rely on people that care for you.”

Despite Lopez’s dedication to his research, he hasn’t always had academics to lean on. Lopez said that because both his foster parents were immigrants from Mexico, there wasn’t an emphasis at home for him to do well in school. “They had no prior background in higher education,” he said. “It was super pivotal for me to have guidance from not only my social worker’s but from mentors and teachers in high school.”

Once at Sonoma State, Lopez didn’t find the transition an easy one. “My first couple months I hated it here coming from a big city to a small one,” he said. “But I really have come to love the city and the campus because it’s where I actually began to become myself. SSU allowed me to finally be able to pursue the things that I wanted to do.”

The now 23-year-old did use the resources available to him to explore other parts of the world. One of the most impactful experiences was his travel abroad experience to France in his junior year, where he stayed with a host family who also were fostering two younger girls at the time.

“I went because I was already exposed to the Latino community and I wanted to explore more of the world,” said Lopez. “And then being able to stay with that family and have an opportunity to mentor those girls in their situation, it just felt like something that was supposed to happen.”

Looking to the future, Lopez has already received acceptance into Michigan State’s Ph.D. program for the fall and is awaiting responses for his seven other applications. Lopez said his ultimate goal is to fund his own news organization geared towards minority and electoral rights for poor people who are disenfranchised anywhere in the world.

With Lopez’s time at SSU coming to an end, he said he wouldn’t be where he is without the small university that he originally didn’t appreciate. “I think every semester I’ve been able to utilize the resources here at Sonoma State,” he said. “Whether it’s studying abroad, the McNair Program, a research position with the political science department, or my mentors, I think those are the reasons why I enjoyed SSU and owe a ton of my success to the people here.”

~ The original story written by Nate Galvan was posted on February 20, 2020 on