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.