Monday, December 5

A Look Back on the Thesis...

As a little bit of background, I was a member of the 2009 McNair cohort, graduated from CMU with my B.S. in Psychology and English (Creative Writing) with a minor in Leadership in May of 2010, and began my graduate work in August 2010 at Portland State University’s (PSU) Applied Industrial-Organizational Psychology Ph.D. program. I blog about my adventures in grad school and Portland, Oregon, at This is my first guest post on the CMU McNair blog!

I’m wrapping up the first quarter of my second year in graduate school, and boy…how the time flies! I remember my time with McNair well—the weeks of research, writing, data collection and analysis, frantic studying for the GRE, the madness of applying to graduate schools, and the awful period of waiting that came with seeing all of my applications off. After visiting two of my potential schools, I knew I wanted to attend Portland State University—and I’m so thankful to say that two years after I sent off my application, I still feel the very same way.

Very early in my graduate school experience, my advisor began to gently push me towards exploring thesis topics. This process began with weekly meetings. In order to prepare for these, I was asked to read my advisor’s publications and bring any questions or thoughts I may have had about them. My advisor pushed me to articulate my interests and passions around the articles I read, and she would often ask questions like, “If you had to design a study from this, what would you do?” Quite intimidating for someone in their first quarter of graduate school! However, meetings like these helped me to learn how to quickly think on my feet, as well as get increasingly familiar with research design.

The winter of my first year, I settled on a thesis topic: I wanted to explore the role of recovery experiences (such as relaxation and psychological detachment) in weakening the negative associations between workplace interpersonal conflict and employee well-being. I made a mutual decision with my advisor to use a data set she already had available, as opposed to collecting my own data. (This made my thesis process much quicker, but presented its own set of unique challenges—a blog post all in its own!) After weeks of writing and revising, I successfully proposed my Master’s thesis this past May. I should note that this timing in and of itself was remarkable for my program—most students don’t propose their theses until sometime in their second year—very, very, very rarely is it done in the first year!

I worked on analyzing my data and writing up my results over this past summer, and finally, this November (on the 18th—a day before my 23rd birthday!), I successfully defended my Master’s thesis. What an amazing feeling! While the weeks and days leading up to that final defense were incredibly stressful, the actual defense passed by quite smoothly. I spent countless hours reading articles, re-reading my final document, and practicing my presentation. I suppose all of that practice paid off! My presentation went well (my committee members even complimented me on my presentation skills—thank you, McNair!), I was able to stay on my toes and answer my committee members’ questions, and I had a good discussion with my committee about future directions to take my research in. Successfully defending my thesis means that as of June 2012 (once I complete several more classes), I will officially have my M.S. in Applied Industrial-Organizational Psychology.

In the few weeks since I’ve defended, I’ve continued to work on revising my thesis (because no, it’s not quite over once you’ve defended). I’ll be working in conjunction with my advisor over the next year to publish findings from my thesis. I’m looking forward to turning my attention towards publishing, and will be continuing to take classes for the remainder of the year. The next big milestones for me are my comprehensive exams…which (thankfully) I get to wait until the spring of 2013 to take!

Wednesday, November 30

Today Was A Very Important Day!!

Today I submitted my first application to my top choice school the University of Maryland for their doctoral program in Women's Studies. I was so excited because this point in my life has not come without many tears (literally and figuratively) and much hard work. A few months ago I was doubting my ability to even get in to a Ph.D. program. I only wanted to apply to MA programs (which I still will do but not all) and I was afraid that maybe I wasn't ready. I was even doubting my program and not sure what I wanted to study. But after and few gentle "smack downs" mostly encouraging words and some self exploration, I realized that I am completely capable of pursing this next level.

Throughout this process I have learned three major things about myself...

1. Be honest with really doesn't matter and it's really not that convincing to others if I am not passionate about.

2. If it's meant to be it will...let the chips fall...relax, relate, release (yep as cliche as it may be)

3. And finally during my visit to U of Maryland a graduate student that I met said something completely profound "go for the school that is going to accept MOST of you."

So with that being said I am signing off to get back to studying and I am excited to submit more applications. Rutgers is next...

Go Marquitta!

I just got back to the office after seeing Marquitta present her research poster at the Student Research and Creative Endeavors Exhibition with the College of Education and Human Services.  I am thrilled to see this project come to fruition as it's been a long time coming!  Marquitta is an inspiration to me.  She persevered despite encountering some challenges and she made it through!  Hats off to Marquitta - this is an outstanding testament to what is possible given personal drive, motivation and sustained effort.  Here's a great shot from the poster session.....compliments of Robert Barclay.

Marquitta and Lynn

FUN Times!

This year has been wonderful with you all. I really appreciate spending time with everyone. Keep these memories in a jar so when we all get our Ph.Ds we can remember where and with whom we started.

Sunday, November 27

Thankful for the GRE (naw, just kidding)

Hello my lovely and fellow scholars.  After reading Lynn's post, and remembering that this time last year I was aglow with pride and anticipation at becoming a McNair scholar, I thought I would share something I am thankful for.  YOU!  That's right.  I am thankful for all of you - from the staff and older cohorts, to our mentors and my fellow McNarians. Instead of writing a list of random and funny quips, I thought I would post excerpts from my Retreat Reflection.

Hippies, and Veggies, and Wine, Oh My!
    Wow!  What an experience I had this past week.  What a relief for me during this difficult period in my life.  As I have expressed in past reflection, one of the greatest joys I have known lately is that of my fellow scholars, of the McNair program as a whole, and of the McNair staff, especially Lynn.  With the idea of the program being a total experience, both mind, body, and soul, I can attest to the truth in those statements.
    Anyway, let me offer some words and phrases that describe the 1st Annual Hippie/Vegetarian/Jolly Roger McNair Retreat for Scholars Needing a Swift Kick in the Ass and a Realistic Assessment of the Professoriate. (be sure to see footnote below)
  • The best salad I have ever tasted (that did not include creamy and fattening homemade ranch dressing)
  • That Oliver is not Maureen’s kid (I quizzically looked at Maureen’s laptop wallpaper and asked, in a puzzled and concerned way, why Oliver wasn’t included in the picture)
  • Don is loud, is fun, and I think he really likes me
  • Ribs, not matter how average they are, taste great after Tofu meals
  • That by eating healthy, as in the vegetarian food, I really could feel good (so, in essence, I will knock the food a tiny bit, but deep down inside, I really liked everything Bob and Sally cooked up)
  • Try never try to go canoeing with Carissa (she’ll dunk ya)
  • 1.9% unemployment in in the professoriate, which means I can get a job
  • “Jaguar”
  • Children’s books are fun:  “My Grandmother is a hippie”
  • When you strip away the normal, everyday concerns and stresses of life, and live closely together for three days, a group of people will not only get along, but will find out ways to make each other feel better, feel happy, and feel like winners
  • If you need to be quiet for any period of time, don’t wake Carissa up
  • That geo-caching is probably fun in an alternative universe and one that includes working flashlights, mosquito repellent, and a lot more booze prior to the hike
  • Before beginning a game with 13+ people a few things should happen:  First, elect a leader to choose the game.  Second, try to follow the traditional rules of the game.  Third, if you can’t do either 1 or 2, then create “Pict-arade-aboo” and make sure there is ample nectar to sip upon
  • Everyone is an imposter in Graduate School
  • PhD programs are for training, not for intelligence building
  • Pork belly tapenade over lightly seared sea scallops make for a good last meal
  • In an effort to be more like Gary Bussey, I created an acronym for DRAFT – Don’t Reflect.  Add Flurry of Text
  • Specificity + Flexibility = Admission
  • Capacity + Passion = Admission
  • When someone has gotten little sleep, is sick, and experiencing vertigo, don’t give the keys to a huge truck and have them drive in rain (Justin C, after Poppycock’s)
  • Bring peanut butter for Carissa to any future trips lasting 24 hours or more
  • Perfect certainty never comes
  • It really isn’t that bad to sleep in a camper with Tim
  • Sometimes Zebras can have 8 legs and resemble a Loch Ness monster – just make sure to draw the stripes
  • Fit and Match = Admissibility
  • Being called Dr. Denby for a whole day is really freakin’ cool
  • Always choose the “superstar” faculty member from China!

The following list is an effort to add creativity and fun to the reflection and in no means is it to skirt the length requirements of the assignment.  

Saturday, November 26

I Am Thankful For You!

I think most of you know how much I love working for McNair.  I do!  It’s a great job because we ultimately are helping to “produce” or “grow” (if you will) some fabulously creative and confident and awesome people who will go on in their education and careers and do some really excellent things.  I especially like seeing this evolution occur over time.  Each scholar goes through the “exploration phase” and the “working really hard” phase and the “oh, I’m super excited about this” phase, and so on….  During each of those phases, different elements come into play.  What’s great about a program like this one is that we can help put out different opportunities and resources and ideas about things that might just help someone think about or consider something as valuable that they might not have done before – or they might get a chance to do something that will help open up new options down the road.  We are all growing together, and through this program, we get to share some of those experiences.  These special occurrences are the core foundation of McNair.  So, I thought I would say thank you to all of you for making this work special and meaningful to me – I am thankful for each of you!  You make my life rich!

Here’s a little something that underscores this feeling – Masani told me that I could share this with you from her last monthly – she talks about visiting the University of Rochester and how she felt while she was there.  All I can say is that it’s been a great privilege working with you, Masani.  You are one dedicated and determined chick!  I know you are going to do some amazing things; because you already are.  J
“One of the most significant events that happened to me in Rochester occurred after my interviews with faculty. I was walking with a professor to lunch, and felt this intense feeling of pride. I thought to myself, "I can do this." I felt for the first time that I am capable of not only being a graduate student, but being a professor as well. As I have never been the most confident person in the world, this was rather profound for me. I really believe that having this feeling allowed me to be more successful in communicating and marketing myself during the visitation.”   
--Masani McGee

On the River!

Friday, November 4

What a Difference One Month Can Make

This was my October reflection.  I wanted to share it because one single month really brought about a great change in my emotional state and my excitement level.  ENJOY!
What an absolute difference a month can make.  I remember feeling down and depressed, unable to move forward, overall concerned about my future while still not making true progress towards it.  Actually, it wasn’t that bad, but it came close.  Then, as if the productivity fairy blessed me with “do-it” dust, I started tackling my tasks with vigor.  I started to feel better, now that I was armed with goals, a to do list, and deadlines.  I was not longer lost in the totality of my tasks.  I had conquered them and, by doing so, I had broken the funk I was in.
Another point for McNair.  And I don’t mind them winning.
I think it would be useful for me, and McNair, to see the progress I have made.  So, here is a list of actions taken and achieved since my last reflection:
  • Sent over 50 emails to professors at my top 14 schools.
  • Received 70% or so response rate to those emails, including long replies filled with advice and guidance.
  • I have targeted 11 schools for applications based on the results above, my interest in the program, and the possibility of acceptance.
  • Finalized my letter of recommendation writers, set up meetings with them, discussed my schools, and began the process of getting those letters.
  • Met with Professors Smith, Green, Hall, Jones, and Robertson to discuss my potential for admission into a graduate program.  The main concern was my GRE and transcript; all professors saw my overall package as promising.
  • I was approved, and very blessed, for travel to Indiana University, as well as visits to my Michigan schools.
  • I have skimmed over at least one article from each of my targeted professors.
  • I have wrote, reviewed, edited, and revised my statement of purpose and CV at least 15 times, all with the help of multiple people, including Lynn Curry, my professors, a few writing center sessions, and my mother.
THE MORALE OF MY STORY:  I think it’s important for me to remember my accomplishments.  Even more importantly, I need to remember that hard work accomplishes real goals; that if I take a few steps forward at first, I will eventually reach my destination.  I also need to remember that clichés, although overused, do sound good, and look even better on paper.

Monday, October 31

This Time, Last Year

This time of year is special because we get to see all the hard work of our current cohort come to fruition (through research presentations, applications to grad school, etc.) and we get to round up another highly motivated group of scholars to continue on with the charge of obtaining their Ph.D.’s. That’s what McNair is about – taking your education to the level of a Ph.D. so that you have greater options for the kind of work you ultimately do.

So, as I meet with our new prospective scholars and get ready to read their applications and interview each one, I became inspired to revisit each of your statements that you submitted in order to become a McNair scholar. This time, last year – this is what you had to say:
“As a psychology and youth studies major my goal is to gain expertise in these areas and obtain a Ph.D. Anything worth achieving usually requires great commitment, and a Ph.D. in psychology is worth my efforts.”
~Maame Adomako

“My professional goals are to finish graduate school, receive my Ph.D. in Communication and ultimately, teach Intercultural Communication or Gender Communication. I want to teach students how to successfully solve conflicts that they may have with someone from a different racial or ethnic background.”
~Donnesha Blake

“I want a career that will be my life. When I got my first taste of archaeology I knew that I had found my calling….after a lifetime of wondering I can finally say that I know who I am and what I want from life. I am determined to receive my Ph.D. and to become the first professor in my family.”
~Justin Cramb

“While the ultimate goal is to earn a Doctor of Philosophy degree, I am as interested and driven to research and publish within my field of study and to share that knowledge through teaching and mentoring college students. As a non-traditional student, I possess an unwavering commitment and preparedness in pursuing my aspirations of becoming a university professor.”
~Eric Denby

“Being a college professor would give me the opportunity to share my story and inspire those that felt the way that I did. It would also give me the opportunity to share the gifts that I have been given.”
~Tanisha Finister

“My professional goals are to conduct research in the field of clinical psychology. I ultimately see myself at a university, teaching and being very involved in research...graduate school and a Ph.D. program particularly, is vital to my being able to achieve my career goals.”
~Melissa Hanell

“My goal is to become a professional historian. I desire to be on the frontlines of academic research as it relates to the Middle East. In addition to pursuing a Ph.D., I plan to become a military officer.”
~Timothy Kimbel

“A doctoral degree is essential to being a leading force in any discipline, as the holders of such a degree are at the forefront of developing new concepts and ideas that lead to the betterment of all society. “
~Masani McGee

“I want to pursue a M.D. /PhD. I will be prepared for that step just out of pure determination. A Ph.D. would mean that I could continue work with neurodegenerative disease as I am interested in… not just practicing medicine directly, but also finding new ways to save lives outside of the operating room, and inside the laboratory.”
~Justin Mendoza

“My primary professional goal is to do everything I can to help families like my own by developing community-based programs that will enrich the lives of every day individuals by empowering them to help themselves attain a healthier lifestyle. Earning a Ph.D. will act as a stepping stone, qualifying me to perform research and fill gaps in nutritional information, while also allowing me to work to change the lives of others by passing my passion and knowledge on.”
~Jennifer Messing

“I plan to apply to graduate schools to earn a doctoral degree in Public Health Education. In order to reach my goal of teaching at the college level as a professor, I realize that a Ph.D. is vital. A Ph.D. is a prestigious degree, and I know that having this degree opens up so many opportunities in life.”
~Carissa Schmidt

“I am in pursuit of a Ph.D. not only for the knowledge that I could gain, and the information that I could contribute, but also the opportunities that I would not have if I did not pursue a Ph.D. I want to become a marriage and family therapist to help lower the 50% rate of divorce, and try to increase the number of solid families.”
~Marquitta Swann

These statements inspire me! I hope they continue to inspire you! You guys rock!

Friday, October 14

So Lynn resurrected the blog. YAY!!! LOL. I wasn't too sure I would have much too say but I just had one of the moments of utter inspiration. Okay that was awkward-- (utter, I never use that word). But I posted on my Facebook status today about my experience in meeting a prospective scholar. I said "Today I met someone who just touched my soul and inspired me to continue to keep pressing forward in my journey. Just to the see the resilience in young African American women is inspiring and it motivates me to find a path that I can touch and inspire the lives of young women who seek to better themselves even through their struggles. When someones touches my heart it's for real and I it brought me back to where I need to be. #XOXO"

Meeting this prospective student and hearing her story really touched my heart. And sure you hear people's story but something about this girl just made me want to connect with her and talk to her and learn from her story. Okay when I say she touched my soul I never say stuff like that, and then I gave her a huge hug (definitely not me), but today she changed my life. I just felt something so genuine about her and I like to say that I am good judge of character (lol).

Lately I have become so desensitized to the world around me that I forgot that people have struggles that are beyond their control and when they beat the odds that is truly significant. Recently I have decided to pursue African American and/or Women's Studies. My research interests revolve around African American women's experiences. I have been struggling to write my personal statement because I really couldn't articulate why I wanted to study African American women through either program. But now I know why...I am captivated by the resiliency of African American women; we share stories that unite us; but our differences are also inspiring. I know that I want to study the lives of Black women because we have a story that needs to be told and it starts with the girl I met casually in the library she has a story, and it's my mother's story, my female relatives--it's their story, it's the story of women like Harriet Tubman, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, and yes Beyonce. It's the story of struggle, passion, resilience, and success and it's the story of me.

So I thank this girl because little does she know she brought me back to feeling the love for humankind (as hippish as that sounds). She ignited a flame in me and I will always be grateful.

P.S. Lynn, I have to tell you her name because I really hopes she joins our McNair family. LOL

Thursday, October 13

Resurrecting Our Blog!

My bad for not posting on our blog since July and the big “take the GRE” day! Can’t believe it already mid-October and that we have scholars presenting and traveling to conferences and visiting graduate schools. It’s always exciting to see our scholars “putting into action” all of the work they completed during the Summer Research Institute and bringing their visions to reality. During this busy time of year, I thought the following post from the Winner’s Circle would be a good piece to get the ball rolling again on the blog. I encourage you to post (especially those of you presenting and applying!) to share your experiences and to past along those “nuggets of wisdom” that you are, for sure, accumulating. Cheers to a great fall season!


Winner's Circle Network with Lou Tice - "Solitude"
When was the last time you really spent quality time . . . with yourself? A word you don't hear much these days is "solitude." Maybe that is because it isn't experienced much. You know, if you put prisoners in solitary confinement, they go a little crazy, or they use the time to grow. Most of them go a little crazy because we're just not used to being alone. Humans are social beings. Too much solitude feels like punishment, but some is essential if we are really going to grow.

Others surround us at work, at home and just about everywhere else, but it is solitude we need for really deep thinking. I am convinced that one reason carpooling hasn't worked very well is because solitary driving time is precious to so many of us. I am also convinced that many busy people, who can afford it, hire others to drive them around because their time alone in the car is rare and invaluable, especially if you have to negotiate traffic.

A therapist friend of mine believes that one reason people make so much headway in therapy is because it provides built-in time and structure to focus attention inward. And a little solitude time is not being selfish; it can be a time of great renewal.

So if you want to really move ahead, take time every so often to be alone. Build it into your schedule to make sure it happens. Use it to think about where you are and where you want to go, and to problem solve, reflect, and re-connect with your heart's desires and challenges.

Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute, Inc.

Wednesday, July 20

It's All Good

Today was the big day, right? Several of you came by after the test to report the outcome. Like usual, some of you are likely surprised by scoring higher than you thought you would....and others, maybe are surprised (or a little bummed) about not scoring as well as you would have liked. And so it goes. I'm using my brother's phrase again - it's all good. I do believe that.

I want to commend each of you for working so hard this summer. On your research, on the GRE prep, on getting your stuff ready for grad school. It's sometimes hard to see when you are "in it" but you are all making great progress for your lives. You're figuring out your interests, you are developing your skills and you are creating more options for yourselves for the future. Pretty cool, I would say.

We all know that GRE is part of the grad process, in most cases. We know that not everyone is going to score according to the level that some programs will be looking for. I also think that you have heard enough stories about scholars making it through this hurdle and still getting in and getting funding regardless of their GRE score. My mantra - it's all about the contact and connectivity with folks at programs you want to get into. We're going to makes sure that you all have fantastic (SHAZAAM-style) personal statements, you will all have sparkling letters of recommendation and you all have the advantage of knowing (and having the resources and capability of doing so) that you need to visit your top-choice schools. That's where you are going to make the greatest impression and "nail the deal" - taking the GRE is just part of the process. It isn't going to make or break you. It's part of the process that you deal with and move on.

You are all amazing individuals. We love working with each of you. You all have so much to offer. I want you to know that whatever score you got today - be it great, mediocre or kinda poopy - we're going to continue to support you and work with you and that you will all find a path to the "best fit" for you in terms of your graduate education. Relax some, enjoy the summer weather that is in full swing and then get back to your research.....McNair-style....

Saturday, July 9

"...Give the world the best you have...": A Quote on Forgiveness, Perseverance, Success, and much more

I have always struggled with balancing being myself and being the person others wanted me to be. I admit- I'm a people pleaser. Although I still struggle with this often, the following quote has been crucial in helping me believe that I can be myself and not focus so much on others needs over my own. While being attentive to and aware of others needs is not all bad, I feel that in the long run it is damaging to a person's sense of self-esteem to let other's thoughts and opinions bring you down. Most of all though, this quote inspires me to continue working hard, even if it doesn't seem worth it sometimes. I hope you all will find it helpful as well:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat; be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend hours building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may just never be enough; give the world the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it's all between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.
-Mother Theresa

Closing the Gap

First off, will someone please tell 'summer' to slow down! It always goes too fast, doesn't it? Especially when you are a McNair scholar busily working on your research, studying for the GRE and preparing to apply to graduate school. Yikes! That's alot. You are all working hard, yes you are. The SRI is intense, yes, but try to keep your eye to the 'big picture' of things. Keep your eye on your long-term vision of where you see yourself down the line, after you finish up your undergraduate career. The work you are doing right now is helping to define that vision and what your reality will ultimately be.

Think about how proactive you are being and how advantaged you are in terms of realizing your goals. You are developing your interests, exploring really cool programs that you could go to, thinking about how you want to develop your talents as a highly educated person.

The Winner's Circle just ran a nice piece on "closing the gap." Meaning closing the gap between your current reality and the vision you have in mind for your future. I think you might find it to be a good reminder of why you are doing what you are all doing right now.

"Closing the Gap"

How do you close the gap between the reality you are living in now and the life you want for yourself in the future? The life you are living right now is not the one you want to live. You could do and be so much more, and you know this. However, somehow things just never seem to change much for you.

Does this sound familiar? Are you or someone you are close to trapped in a life you don’t want, feeling stuck and unable to move? Let me make a suggestion. Why don’t you try imagining the future you want for yourself? Imagine it so vividly and specifically that you can actually see it. Then, take it even further. Hear it, taste it, feel it, walk around in it! Make it like a movie, starring you.

When you come back to reality, of course, you will be aware of a gap between where you are now and where you want to be – but that’s good! You see, it is this gap that releases your energy and creativity. Did you know that automobiles only move because they have a gap in the spark plug? There has to be room – a space – for the spark to ignite.

For us humans, that gap, between the way things are and the way we want them to be, is that space where our drive, energy and creativity have room to ignite. And the drive and energy are what is required to close the gap. Without a vision, a vivid picture of the future in the mind, there is no gap, and you will never discover your own power.

Try creating a vision, then work at strengthening it every day, and see what happens.

Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute

Thursday, June 23


I knew the day was going to be a challenge when I witnessed bird-on-bird violence while I sat at the kitchen table contemplating recent events concerning my son's first year funding to attend CMU. I watched as a bird (who I'll call Bob) worked diligently to wrestle breakfast from the ground and wondered how I would fulfill all my responsibilities if I had to fight as hard to secure three daily meals. To my dismay a second bird (George) interrupted my pondering when he swooped down, pecked Bob in the face, and quick as lightning stole the hard won meal. All Bob's hard work was erased in an instance. Bob seemed to pause for a moment before taking flight and I wondered about his response. Was Bob sad, pissed, discouraged, defeated...? Would he muster the energy and courage to search for another meal or go hungry? Would he live to fight another day??

Poopy things happen in life. It is ok to feel what you feel about them but we all are responsible for our choices. If an obstacle delays our progress and we allow it to become a barrier, there are always other birds out there who are only too happy to continue the fight and secure what may have been our next meal. My son will overcome the obstacle created by the loss of 80% of his funding because he is hungry and he is passionate about his goals. He knows about the struggle to fund an education because he lived it with me as I searched endlessly for support to achieve my bachelor's degree. He also knows that it is possible to persevere and reach your goals; he was there when my name was read at the May 2009 graduation ceremony.

Although you will encounter obstacles on your path to earning a doctoral degree, will you allow them to become barriers? Will you persevere?


Tuesday, June 21

I Love Shaun!

You have heard me talk about how much I love Shaun the Sheep, so I thought I would share. Take a break from all of your hard work and watch this six-minute video. It's hilarious! LOL!

Monday, June 13

Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Back in April, I posted to our blog on mindfulness and how it can help us to live better by being more present to our lives. I think everyone knows how much I enjoy encouraging our scholars to explore tools that can help them grow on many levels - yoga and meditation being two very significant tools in my mind. Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s work on mindfulness is interesting, and I think, a great entry point to the practice of becoming more mindful. I’m meeting with each of you this week and I’ll be chatting about this, in addition to inviting you to listen to a short podcast of Dr. Kabat-Zinn from Public Radio’s “On Being” with Krista Tippett. There are a ton of cool programs on this site, by the way. You know, for in your spare time….

I posted the podcast on SharePoint (if you wish to download it and listen) and here is a link to the transcript of the podcast, which also includes a link to download it from Public Radio’s website. I’m also including a link to Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s bio and short video of him encapsulating the primary focus of his work. Finally, we have a “McNair IPod” that I will be “passing around” to interested parties….I have a variety of items on the IPod; you might find some of them interesting and/or useful and/or fun!

Transcript from On Being – Opening to Our Lives

Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s Bio and Short Video


Sunday, June 12

A Little Hand is a Big Thing ...

My reflection from last week focused on all the small things I do to sabotage my progress.  All the little excuses I can create and justify to stifle my success.  Interestingly, I ran across this story regarding spiritual progress from Paulo Coelho.  I thought it was cool enough to quote here.

Quoted from the June edition of Ode Magazine -

Covering the Sun with One's Hand
A disciple sought out Rabbi Nahman of Braslaw and said, "I will no longer study the sacred texts. I live in a small house with my brothers and parents, and I never have the ideal conditions to be able to concentrate on what is important."

Nahman pointed to the sun and asked his disciple to place his hand in front of his face, so as to hide it. The disciple did as he was told.

"Your hand is small. However, it was able to entirely block the strength, the light and the majesty of the huge sun.  In the same way, small problems are able to give you the necessary excuse not to go on your spiritual search. Just as the hand has the power to hide the sun, mediocrity has the power of hiding your inner light. Do not blame others for your own incompetence."

Sunday, June 5

Getting Into the Groove

During the summer, my sister Patty and I have been known to do the “summer chant” when we’re swimming at the cottage, out by the raft. It goes like this. Give me an “S!” Give me a “U!” Give me an “M!” Give me another “M!” Give me an “E!” Give me an “R!” What’s that spell?! SUMMER! SUMMER! I know you are laughing…..but seriously……maybe we should say…..give me an “S!” Give me an “R!” Give me an “I!” What’s that spell?! SRI! SRI! Yes, it’s your Summer Research Institute and you are in the thick of it.

That’s okay though because each one of you is going to work in a very focused and efficient way on all items of business – your research, your GRE, your plan for grad school. Now is the time to do your best, taking advantage of the support, knowledge and guidance you are receiving. We know it’s a lot. It is a lot. I think everyone is well-oriented to striving for balance, which is good. Work hard, but find time to relax and enjoy the summer too. If you work smart and efficient, we think you can do both.

Sunday, April 17


I am so excited about exposing our scholars to yoga and meditation. Since I talk about this a lot, I think everyone knows how deeply I believe these practices can enhance your lives, on many levels. I am including a passage by Dr. Kabat-Zinn who is a world-renown expert on mindfulness and the Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. I learned about Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s work about a year ago and it has helped me greatly. For the 2011 scholars, one of the first things for our next “to do list” starting this summer will be to listen to a podcast of Dr. Kabat-Zinn explaining this idea and practice. Here is just a quick taste; Heather shared this in class this past week.

In his book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life,” Dr. Kabat-Zinn writes:

“Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice which has profound relevance for our present-day lives. This relevance has nothing to do with Buddhism per se or with becoming a Buddhist, but it has everything to do with waking up and living in harmony with oneself and with the world. It has to do with examining who we are, with questioning our view of the world and our place in it, and with cultivating some appreciation for the fullness of each moment we are alive. Most of all, it has to do with being in touch.”

“Mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and its applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.”
Here is a link to more information on Dr. Kabat-Zinn, if you are interested.

JON KABAT-ZINN, PH.D., is founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world. He received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT in 1971 in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria.

Sunday, April 10

Laughter and Transitions

I thought I would reflect for a moment on this particular stage in the McNair experience. When I say McNair experience, I mean my own McNair experience which has been going on for some time now….this time of year is always exciting, a little nerve-wracking, and inspiring on many different levels. We’ve got scholars graduating, getting offers for grad school and moving on to the next phase in life. We’ve got scholars just getting started in the process, although I must say that they are probably feeling “down and dirty” in the thick of things at the moment given that draft proposals just came in yesterday and presentations are coming up in just a few weeks. Having both groups going at once is really fun, sometimes challenging to keep track of everyone’s details, but most of all – super cool. In short, everyone is in the process of exploring options for themselves and figuring out their lives. That’s what McNair is all about.

I encourage everyone to embrace this process, wherever you might be in it, and take from it what it has to offer. If you are willing to really put yourself out there, I’m betting that you’ll receive back ten-fold – in ways you probably can’t imagine right now. Again, that’s super cool. I’ll end with a tidbit from Lou Tice on laughter since I think that is something that can really help, really with everything, and at every point along the way.

Here is what Lou says:

Today, we know that humor is a vital sign of life that affects us both physiologically and psychologically. Genuine laughter signals emotional flexibility and is a common reaction to the unexpected, the unpredictable. Some folks claim that one good belly-laugh – that full-out, no-holds-barred, tears streaming down your face laugh – can give you up to 90 days of protection against illness. If that’s true, imagine what a giggle-a-day could do.

The ability to make others laugh is an invaluable quality, but the ability to make ourselves laugh is even more precious – so develop a ticklish funny-bone, and you’ll be growing in more ways than you might think!

--Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute

Saturday, April 2

Advance Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams ...

I just wanted to share a fantastic quote, one that was given to me on my 33rd birthday. As I get older, I forget not only what I have achieved, but what I am still capable of. A good friend of mine reminded me with these words from Henry David Thoreau. The first sentence is my favorite.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”


Thursday, March 31

Conference on College Composition and Communication

Well, on a much less philosophical note, I am preparing for a panel presentation that I applied for in December. I am one of two students (as well as the only undergraduate) on my panel discussing the racism and subjugation of Native people with the use of Native American imagery and likeness as mascots. Needless to say I'm starting to lose my mind thinking of all the details for travel, presentation information, talking with professors about upcoming absences, and the like.

However, I am thrilled that as an undergraduate I've had an amazing experience and have been pushed to my limits - only to excel further. :D

My mentor, Dr. Rose Gubele of the English Department, has been such an inspiration and such a strong force in my life. If it wasn't for Rose, I can't honestly say the things that I've accomplished this far would've happened.

So, moral of the story: even though things are all sorts of crazy as we're knee-deep in the semester, remember that the future can hold really beautiful and exciting experiences for you - so soak it all up and bask in the glory of being a McNair Scholar.

(side note: I honestly have friends in Graduate School across the county who repeatedly remind me how blessed I am as a McNair Scholar, and that they wish they would've applied or considered it.)

Take care, and pray I don't stutter too much! ;)

Sunday, March 27

The Invitation

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments

"The Invitation" is a really great way for me to reorient myself in the world when I seem to be so caught up in everything else.

What I find so inspirational about this piece of poetry is it's not simply challenging you to share your goals and dreams, but is aiding in the process of self analysis and self efficacy - but not just in terms of the world, but individually. She is challenging each and everyone of us to look deep within ourselves and take a serious inventory of who we really are.

A passage I find really interesting:

It doesn't interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I find this to be extremely applicable to our program and each of us as McNair Scholars. It doesn't matter with all of the fine details if you don't care about your fellow human beings at the end of the day. We are McNair Scholars not simply by selection and because of the memory of Dr. McNair - WE are Scholars in his memory because he understood and actively engaged in the process of social and economic growth and development through the attainment of higher education. Although he was an astronaut, he was a humanitarian. What is so remarkable about him (in my opinion) is his belief in and empowerment of the underprivileged.

So, in our active participation in this program take time to recognize and give thanks to those who have come before you - humility is an important virtue that all people should actively incorporate into life. During our busy lives, looking at graduate programs, studying, writing reflections and affirmations, and meeting with mentors - remember why we now have a special privilege and status as McNair Scholars. Remember the life and legacy of Dr. McNair.

Friday, March 25

Yesterday I Met The Man Behind All My Citations-Douglas Kelley !!!

Yesterday, I had the most amazing day ever. It started with me being at work just causually checking my e-mail and my research mentor sent me a message telling me that Douglas Kelley would be here presenting at the Communication department's annual Communication and Social Action Conference. This year the theme was blame and forgiveness. Douglas Kelley is actually a leader in the forgiveness communication research. So the story research mentor said she realized as she was reading my literature review that I had been citing alot of his work in my research and thought meeting him would be a great opportunity. So of course I said yes (screaming inside because I was so excited!!). I mean it was like getting ready to meet a celebirty (really). Just yesterday on our day off I had the chance to really read through his book Communicating Forgiveness (I actually carry this book around with me everyday). I found myself learning more and more about the forgiveness and tweeking my literature review along the way. I have also used every article he has published on forgiveness communication in my literature review. Today he presented from 11-12:15, since I was at work I couldn't make it to his presentation, but as soon as I got off of work at noon, I rushed over to Moore to meet him. Let me tell you I don't think I have walked faster in my life across campus. I was determined to meet this man. Another crazy connection was that I actually inquired about master's program at Arizona State University a few weeks ago because he teaches there and I could definitely see my self working with him on forgiveness research.

So how did the meeting go Donnesha? I am glad you asked. It was amazing, I had lunch with him and we spent an hour just chatting about my research, and the program, faculty and research endeavors at ASU, he also told me a great deal about Arizona in general and the social aspect of the city. I got to pick his brain and he offered some great advice on my research design and some sources I might want to look further into. He even pulled out his book (the one I had been reading) and I was so excited to say OMG I have that book (however, this was the one day I didn't carry it with me...bummer). He was also very personable and easy to talk. My first thought when I was invited to meet him was OMG what I am going to ask him, what am I going to say, am I going to freeze up and just smile the entire time, luckily Dr. Wither's gave me a few pointers on questions to ask and from there it was like all these thoughts and ideas just started coming out. We ended up having a great conversation. Oh yeah and of course I told him about the McNair program...he was very impressed. And he's pretty funny and I can tell he loves his area of study and his profession. I honestly could have talked to him for hours, but he had to get on a plane soon after he finished lunch.

I don't know if I am just lucky or blessed, but either way I am grateful. I am first grateful for being a McNair scholar because with out this opportunity, I would have never been led to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Withers and utimately meet Dr. Kelley. I know everything works out for a reason and I am glad that McNair is my destiny. I read Lynn's and Maureen's post and I know how much they are fighting to keep this program alive. I know that already McNair has afforded me some wonderful opportunities and I am more determined than ever to continue on my path to obtaining my Ph.D.


Thursday, March 24

Staying True to the McNair Mission

I choose this title for a presentation I did at a national McNair conference at the University of Maryland several years ago. I can’t believe that I have now personally worked with eight McNair cohorts - our new scholars are my 9th group of McNair scholars! Wow. As I look back over these years and view the outcomes in relation to the primary goal of the McNair program – to increase the number of traditionally disadvantaged students receiving their Ph.D.’s – we are coming up with some great successes. We now have two actual Ph.D. recipients (from the first and second group I have worked with) and nearly twenty scholars enrolled in actual Ph.D. programs. I say actual Ph.D. programs because the truth of the matter is – we have a ton that are in master’s programs and a ton that have received their master’s and then stopped. Of course in some disciplines, getting your master’s first is a necessary requirement. I’m hoping that some of our alumni scholars who have stopped, or never went in the first place, will one day return to school and pursue their Ph.D. We do recognize this might not be the true path for everyone.

I bring this up not to be pessimistic – again, I think we are achieving great success when you compare our averages with the national averages. Nearly 30% of students serviced since 2003 have gone on for their Ph.D. It is amazing, however, given the amount of resources put into this program that more don’t.

Maureen and I recently returned from Washington, DC, in which our primary goal was to lobby Congress for continued funding for Trio programs, including McNair. Of the Trio programs (including Educational Opportunity Centers, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math/Science, Talent Search, Veterans Upward Bound and Student Support Services), the greatest amount of money is put into McNair on a per student basis. I think every scholar who participates in McNair knows this and can appreciate that federal dollars are being channeled toward their success. With economic realities changing and being what they are today, I think it is important to bring this to the forefront of what we do with our students and our program here at CMU. Monies will only become harder to come by and we will need to have the data that demonstrates why this money is necessary to help students, who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have even considered getting their Ph.D., actually get one. That means that we need for you to take full advantage of these precious resources (that we are currently able to draw on) and make the most of them. The bottom line in my mind is that we need our McNair scholars to be true to themselves and we also need for them to take their education to the highest level possible and get their Ph.D.’s.

Our McNair scholars are doing this and I hope more will. The greater number whom stays true to the McNair mission, the easier it will be to convince (and the fact is that we will always need to convince folks) our Senators and Representatives that these federal dollars spent on McNair are well worth it. Like Maureen talks about in her *very important* post about our experiences in DC, you are all worth it. You inspire us. We hope McNair will continue to be an inspiration for you.

In closing here, I would like to add that as a personal goal for myself, I would like to increase my own participation (and facilitation) of spreading the word on why programs, like McNair and Trio, are so important for our local communities and society at large. I will need help from each of you willing to share your story and your experience to do this. Contacting the White House, sending letters to our Representatives, writing to our local papers and placing Op-Ed pieces - these are all very important ways of raising awareness and underscoring the need for such investments in higher education for all.

Here are several links to op-ed pieces recently posted on The Hill’s Congress Blog by Trio alumni which show what I’m talking about. There are also some very interesting comment threads, which incidentally, underscore the need for you to voice your own opinions on the subject. Check them out!

The student between the line items

Proof that Education department policies help students

Sunday, March 20

You Inspire Me

I spent my spring break in Washington D.C. with Lynn engaged in advocacy for TRIO programs, of which, McNair is one. As before, I was overcome with a sense of empowerment to reach my goals but then it dawned on me how much my determination is influenced by the McNair Scholars I work with on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.

As I listened to presenter after presenter at the Council for Opportunity in Education's policy seminar, my gratitude for having benefitted from my experience as a McNair Scholar grew even greater. It is no secret to the people who know me how my life has been impacted by the McNair Program. I was brought nearly to tears as I listened to Senator Tom Harkin speak about his passion for TRIO and his fight to keep these programs funded. Afterward, I had the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for everything he is doing to ensure that future first generation/low income and underrepresented students are supported by TRIO programs.

Of course, as always happens on a trip away from my family, there is a lot of time to reflect on my experiences over the past 6 years of my university education. Central in my mind was the work I am doing with the McNair Scholars Program and how I would like to focus my doctoral research on topics that will benefit the program and the people we serve. It was then that I had an epiphany.

There have been many times over the past two years when I was so exhausted I felt uncertain of my ability to reach my goal of earning a Ph.D. This is a common concern from what I have heard from other grad students but this fact did not console me. However, what really kept me going is the committment I felt to meeting the goal set forth by the McNair Program, to prepare underprivileged students to increase the diversity of those attaining the highest level of training in their field of study. I realized at some point, my frustration and fatigue allowed me to question this committment to the McNair Program. In my weakest moment I thought to myself, someone else will meet the goal and increase the likelihood that McNair will continue to exist. It was a low point in my education for sure.

Here is the epiphany: As I sat in my hotel room alone in D.C. reflecting on the past year, I realized how much my work with McNair Scholars has empowered me to reach my own goals. Not only am I committed to earning my Ph.D. because I want to see McNair continue to benefit others, I am inspired to continue working hard because I see current scholars benefitting from program services and I am honored to be a part of that. YOU, past, current, and future McNair Scholars keep me plugging along on the path to Ph.D. YOU inspire ME!

Thank you!

Sunday, March 13

Puts it in perspective

I spent my spring break in St. Louis, MO. I wasn't vacationing on a beach (not that St. Louis has any), or going site seeing (though I did go to the arch). But I was there to volunteer. I was on an Alternative Spring Break through CMU Volunteer Center. It was an amazing and rewarding experience. I worked with a nutrition center for HIV/AIDs patients called Food Outreach. While I was there, I met their small, but amazing staff, and many of the regular volunteers. I also had the chance to meet a few patients. I think the biggest take home lesson from these kinds of trips is that no matter what their situation, people are people, and can be very surprising. While we were working with Food Outreach, we were staying at a drop in center called the Bridge. It caters meals to the homeless of St. Louis for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While there we ate two of our meals a day with all the people who come there just about every day of their lives. It was an eyeopening experience. The entire trip gave me insight into how easily life can change, and it makes you stop and think about all the luxuries we take advantage of. It makes me all the more grateful to be a McNair Scholar and to go to CMU. I hope everyone else had a wonderful spring break, and I'll see you all soon.

Sunday, February 27

It's All Good.

I’m trying to think of the best way to put it. “It’s all good” is what I’m coming up with. You’ve probably heard me say that before. I think I get it from my brother Billy, an eternal optimist and just one of those people with, all in all, good vibes. He plays the drum for a living, really.

You can check it at: I digress!

But seriously, it is all good. The path that we’re all on, right? This time of year can be intense and stressful and at the same time a bit suspenseful and super exciting. I’m speaking to our “older” scholars when I talk about all of the “fruits of your labor” starting to ripen. That’s a cheesy way to say that, huh? Really though, you all busted a-- this past summer and fall, and you’ve been traveling a here and there and a here and there – everywhere – as of late, all with the purpose of securing a future for yourselves that most likely will be including a graduate education.

I’m thinking of Kayla down as MSU and Freddy at IU just this past Friday. Jenn trucking down to Nashville and then Oklahoma. And, Bianca making “several” trips to Andrews University quite awhile ago actually, and then more recently “making a stop-over” or shall I say “stop-up” at North Texas. Blaise cruised down to Ohio; Amanda went there on two different occasions actually, in addition to making it over to Indiana. John was in New York and then South Carolina. Cyrus just scoped out Kansas. Freddy already hit up IU last fall (before his “formal interview trip” last week) and Arizona State University. Helena, gosh, where has Helena been? Jet setting to UNC in North Carolina, then Salt Lake City and then Alabama! Kayla is flying out to Denver this coming Friday and Lindsay is making a stop in Denton, TX before heading to Vegas for spring break. Whew! I’m tired just trying to recap that all.

Side Note: ask Jeanine how much she loves putting together our “travel summaries” for reimbursement and tracking purposes this time of year! Talk about challenging….

I love this time of year, even though I do get nervous. I try to remind myself – which is the point of this blog post in case you were wondering – that things will all work out as they are meant to. This is one big, sometimes complicated and convoluted process. I’m guessing that most of you would agree. It’s your life! I just wrote to Kayla and said that this stuff is important and we all need to put forth some serious effort (which in my mind, you all have), but then, I think it’s also about letting some of that go (you know, the stuff in your head) about expectations and worry and things like that. It’s amazing to see how the level of confidence among all of the scholars soars at this point in McNair. We see you come in the office, right before a trip, a bit nervous perhaps, but *really polished* in your intent and preparations for the trip. While we might not all get what we were thinking we would, we will all get what it is we should. We’ll all get ourselves onto a path that is meant for us. At least that’s how I like to think of it. And, I always have to throw this in there – we’re (your lovely McNair family) just really lucky to have been one part of that *really cool* journey, along the way! --LMC

Sunday, February 20

Throw Open the Curtains

I once thought that self-denial was the best strategy to surviving grad school. I denied myself sleep, good food, exercise, relaxation, and oh, so many things. After all, I was passing graduate level courses, maintaining a good GPA, fulfilling my duties to the McNair program, and most importantly, taking care of my family (although I always strive to do that better). Weren't my priorities in order? NOT!! Wasn't I taking care of business? DEPENDS!! I realized last semester, I had sacrificed so much in pursuit of a degree it felt as if the curtains had been drawn on my soul (melodramatic?). I was run down and burned out, not to mention I was not passionate about the topic for which I was making so much sacrifice.

I have taken steps this semester to make some major shifts in that self-denial approach to earning my degree.
  1. I have worked hard to get at least 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep each night though occasionally it has creeped closer to 6 hours. I am finding that I really can't do that anymore without feeling like doody the next day whereas I used to sleep for 4 hours and wake up ready to go the next morning.
  2. I have put myself on an eating schedule on which I have three decent sized meals and 2 snacks a day. Even though it is more daily food than I have eaten in years, I seem to be losing weight.
  3. Exercise, what can I say about exercise? That is what I have missed most since returning to university 6 years ago. Previously, I had been very physically active and enjoyed feeling strong and fit. I haven't felt that way in many years. So, I have been squeezing in a work out daily, even if only 20-25 minutes.

I have worked on my physical health but realized today that maybe I haven't addressed my mental sacrifice as well.

As I walked into my bedroom this morning to begin homework, I noted that the curtains were still drawn and typically are when I work in my room. Feeling a little deprived because I am currently overwhelmed with work, a powerful rebellion grew inside me and I hurried to the windows and threw open the curtains. At that moment I resolved to work with the curtains open from now on.

As I sit here writing this, I look occasionally to my garden and imagine the sun on my face, the grass green and fragrant, abundance bursting forth from my plants, and the pleasure all this brings. At one time, I was concerned that all these feelings might serve as a distraction and illuminate the self-imposed deprivation in which I engaged to be successful in grad school. I now realize that they are quite the opposite. These feelings need to be a part of my weekly experience (if not more frequently). When I revel in these imaginings, they are like mini vacations of the mind and they will sustain me until the snow melts and my academic schedule lightens. They are just as necessary as all the physical changes I have made and maybe even more so.

Of course, I hate the cold so the snow storm outside my window makes it a little difficult to imagine the sun on my face. Maybe I will go take a hot bath and imagine that... I am in a hot tub on a cruise ship. The waiter just brought me a Miami Vice and it is as cold in my hand as the sun is hot on my shoulders...

Wednesday, February 16

So I am definitely supposed to be reading an article for my research right now, but I was so inspired to write that I had to take a quick break. This week I went to yoga and the instructor read one of my favorite quotes. It's a quote from Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love. Here goes:

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson

I first heard this quote when I saw the movie Coach Carter. I loved this quote so much that I printed off copies of it during my senior year in high school and posted it all over my room. This quote reminds me to tell myself that I am GREAT and I that shouldn't apologize for it!!! I think we all have those moments that we think man I'm nothing but a small insignificant specimen on this huge planet, who am I too think I am more than that? Or we might say who I am to think that I am a smart and beautiful person, that is so presumptuous? Well actually we're not insignificant and we're not arrogant for thinking we are amazing. We are not even being presumptous (yay I used a word on our vocab list Maureen should be proud) when we take the time to recognize our own greatness. We are taking the time to give ourselves that pat on the back that people otherwise wouldn't give us. This quote can be a great confidence builder, and a word of encouragement when we're feeling down. It helps us to look beyond just being ordinary to recognize the how extraordinary we really are.


Monday, February 14

A Great *Lunch* Idea

Here is one of my favorite - quick and easy - lunch salads, thought it would be fun to share!

Thai Corn Black Bean Salad
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 can (16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalepeno chili peppers, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger root (can use dried instead)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt to taste

Combine all veggies and beans in a bowl. Whisk sesame oil with vinegar and lime juice in a small bowl. Toss it with the beans and veggies. Makes 4 - 6 servings. I recommend doubling it so that you can take it with you for lunch several times during the week!

Sunday, February 6

The Power of Affirmations

Today I am posting a short piece from Lou Tice at the Pacific Institute on affirmations since the new group will be turning in their first monthly tomorrow. I strongly encourage each of you to sign up for Lou's daily email (I know it's another thing to add to the list, but it is totally worth it, in my opinion). He sends out a *brief* message on a range of topics mostly related to living an awesome and fulfilling life. Please try it and let me know what you think. I tend to post some of Lou's stuff that coincides with McNair happenings and topics at hand, like the one for today! I have personally found Lou’s advice to be very helpful through the years…

Here is the link to sign up - you can always unsubscribe if you find that you aren't into it.

"Power of Affirmations"

One of the things that I talk about a great deal in my work at The Pacific Institute is the power of affirmations. You know, some communication systems, like those used by the armed forces, use the word "affirmative" instead of "yes." And that is what an affirmation is: saying "yes" to something. In a formal debate, the side that upholds the truth of the proposition is called the "affirmative side." So when you make an affirmation, you are saying, "Yes, I believe in the truth of this."

Affirmations, combined with visualizations or mental images, are a highly effective way of moving into new situations without anxiety. They can also help you achieve goals of every conceivable kind. Many professional athletes use affirmation and visualization along with practice to help them play at peak form more often. I remember a javelin thrower some time ago who had just surpassed his personal best record. He said, "It feels like déjà vu. I have seen myself do this so many times before in my mind."

You see, his subconscious didn't know the difference between a vividly imagined throw and the real thing. So he was training his body to throw perfectly with his mind. And it was no surprise when he finally did throw perfectly. The same is true for you and whatever you want to do. If you rehearse the future over and over in your mind and see yourself performing perfectly, you will be dramatically increasing your chances of bringing that future easily and free-flowingly into reality.

--Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute

Friday, February 4

Funny Stuff to Sustain You

This will be brief. Do you ever feel alone in your struggle to reach lofty goals? If you do feel alone, look around. Typically there are others right along side you struggling as well. Sometimes these shared struggles can seem lighter if you can laugh about the insanity of it all. The same is with the craziness of grad school, you have to laugh to avoid letting it consume you. Stay strong!!

In order to promote humor, please check out the following link to Piled Higher and Deeper (Ph.D.)

Happy reading!

Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody in here?

Ok, it is challenge time. I really want to know what you all are thinking. What is on your minds? Do you feel confident that the McNair program will be a positive force in your lives? Do you feel overwhelmed? What can we do to help? The challenge is this. Please consider posting on our blog and share your experiences. Lynn wants me to post on our blog weekly but I am wondering if anyone reads these heartfelt words. Let me know you are out there.

Since I am at a loss of what to say this week, and I am feeling like I might be shouting into a vacant abyss, I am going to leave you with the lyrics to a song that helped me at a time in my life when I felt all my efforts to make a difference in the world were for naught. In fact, there was a time that I was told that nothing I did to help others, no sacrifice I made, would change anything for anyone and I began to question whether my efforts were pointless. The world was the way it was and the actions of one person would do nothing to make it better.

The Change

One hand reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
They say what good have you done
By saving just this one
It's like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm
And I hear them saying you'll never change things
And no matter what you do it's still the same thing
But it's not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me
This heart
Still believes
That love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage and so many say
That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
It's like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss

And I hear them saying...

Ok, I know it is a country song, but I love most all music (rock, classical, r&b, some rap, Hindi, Salsa...) and if you close yourself off from a particular genre you can miss some really neat messages. The message of this song helped to renew my passion to make a difference tempered with the realization that the influence one individual has on any problem may be small, however, a passion to make a difference can prevent you from becoming part of the problem, or worse yet, ignorant of the problem.