Sunday, April 21

We Are All Vibrators

I follow Marie Forleo because she's hilarious and shares great advice for people interested in becoming entrepreneurs and basically rocking out an awesome life. She hosts Q&A Tuesday's on Marie TV and every week she tackles a pertinent topic and/or question from her subscribers. I had fallen behind in watching her weekly videos but today I watched a few to catch up. Turns out that she recently posted on a topic related to the fact that our new McNair scholars will be presenting in just a few days - overcoming fear and shyness.

Click HERE to check out the short video. Scroll down to hit play.

Now, I realize that not everyone might feel as if they are shy, but I would venture to guess that most people (myself included) feel a bit of anxiety (or fear) before speaking in front of others. You have another practice session tomorrow - I invite you to check out this video by Marie to gather up three tips that just might help you reframe how you feel about presenting. The goal: be your best no matter what you are feeling.

Here's the gist:
  • You are a vibrator. Your body is a mass of atoms. Stop associating your feelings (like nervousness or anxiety) with something bad. Just recognize that we all vibrate with different feelings and emotions - it's not good and it's not bad. By just experiencing what we are experiencing - without putting a label on it - we can simply experience it and move on. Easy peasy.
  • Nickname your vibes. This one cracks me up but I think it can work. Instead of putting a name to your feelings like "I'm nervous" or "I'm scared" - call it something else - something light and funny. Josh uses the example of "shushi" - "I'm feeling shushi" - that's it! It reduces any negativity that might be associated with it and simply accepts that we are vibrating and feeling a bit of shushi at the moment. What name will you come up with?
  • Ride it, don't hide it. Take any vibrations you might be experiencing when it comes to presenting and just see it as creative fuel - it's something that's going to propel you into action. Let that energy empower you instead of trying to downplay it. Try to speak authentically from whatever place you are finding yourself. Both Marie and Josh stress that if you allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling fully, it usually only lasts for seven to twelve seconds. That's all.
The bottom line - reframes can be really powerful in our lives.

Here's the challenge that Marie poses:
  1. Tell us the sensation/emotion, that you struggle with most, that you would like to "overcome."
  2. Describe the emotion in terms of vibrating atoms. What does it feel like?
  3. Nickname your vibes and commit to riding it and not hiding it.
>>>>Be sure to click on this week's ACTIONABLE to complete the challenge.

Try this out when you practice your presentation this week and put it to use on Thursday at the symposium!

Monday, April 15

"The Helpers"

I am the President of the Student Social Work Association. Annually, we pick a location, drive there, and volunteer. This year, I chose Washington DC. I rented a 15 passenger van, 3 hotel rooms, and drove 11 social work majors down to volunteer. We hopped in the van on Thursday morning and drove 12 hours.

On Friday, we departed the hotel at 9:00am and went to work with an organization I came into contact with via email, called Friendship Place. This program does a variety of things, but mostly it is a non-profit organization with a grant from the VA to provide homeless veterans with housing. Half of our group cleaned an apartment for a veteran with some hoarding issues. The other half of us were expected to move a homeless veteran into a new apartment. Friendship Place provides intensive services for 3 months. The first month, they pay the veteran's rent. The second month, they pay half. By the third month, they expect the veteran to be self-sufficient because of the budgeting and other skills they have been provided (but Friendship Place is there for backup).

We were on our way to meet the veteran when the landlord called us and told the coordinator that he was misled and no longer wanted the veteran in the apartment because the rent was not guaranteed to be paid after 3 months. It was literally SO sad. We had to give the homeless veteran the bad news. Instead of reacting negatively, he still wanted to meet us (the student volunteers). He kept saying "I want to meet the helpers". The veteran had the best attitude and was so grateful that we wanted to help him. He was sweet, kind and yet...homeless. It was a true social work experience that I am grateful, yet sad, about having. Because we could not move him into the apartment, we went to the drop-in center that Friendship Place runs. At the drop-in center, homeless people can come Monday-Friday for food, showers and clothing. We sorted clothing donations and talked with clients for the remainder of our time. Once again, we meet people in awe of our service and were so thankful. I could not believe that after all of their troubles, these people took the time to thank us and wanted to hear about our lives. One man is trying to prepare for his daughter's wedding; she is returning from the Peace Corps.

Our next project on Friday was with an organization called New Communities for Children. It is an after school program that runs Mon-Fri 3:30pm-7:00pm. It is completely free and it helps children succeed both by providing school help, child care and a place for children to go after school to stay out of trouble. There were kids from kindergarten to high school. Friday was a fun day, so we got to play games with the children, take them to the park, and play basketball. Our goal was to promote positive peer interactions. The response was overwhelming. The children clung to us, took our pictures, cried when we left, and left a mark on my heart. I always thought I wanted to be a rural social worker, but these urban kids really tugged at my heart strings and I could see myself working in a similar area.

On Saturday, we completed our last volunteer project. We went to the community swimming pool and worked with an organization called KEEN. The children served are developmentally or cognitively impaired. The organization attempts to keep these kids healthy through exercise. Two CMU students were assigned to each kid and we were instructed to play with them in the pool and just have fun with them. I was assigned to a 10 year old boy with autism. We played in the pool for two hours with the kids. Not only does this community engagement benefit the children, but the parents receive a well-deserved break as well.

Our group of 12 students took off for DC with nothing more than emails from organizations accepting our plea to let us volunteer. We took initiative and gave back. We put our lives on hold to help others. But as much as the children and veterans benefited, we benefited as well. We learned what it was like to be "helpers". We brought empowerment to these individuals. We showed DC the skills we spent years learning at CMU.

I got back to handfuls of emails and assignments I need to complete. I need to register for MSW/PhD classes tomorrow and I have no idea how. I need to accept my Dean's Fellowship still. I need to find an apartment. I need to email my adviser..... But none of my needs are as great as those whom I was able to serve this weekend.

Sunday, April 14

Tell Us About Your Research

This time of year can get a bit stressful for new scholars as they get ready to present their research proposals to their faculty research mentors. They've been working on this all semester so it's a real milestone and accomplishment along their McNair journeys. What's great is that they have an awesome "trio of support" in the form of Dr. Brooke Harrison, Dr. Shelly Hinck and Ms. Maureen Harke. These tremendous women have the scholars' best interests in hand and are ready to help formulate, massage and fine-tune the inner workings of their research presentations. They are also here to grow confidence. I personally love seeing our scholars evolve in their presentation abilities and styles between now and the fall when they present their actual research findings.

Here are some thoughts and recommendations that I would like to offer:
  • Take full advantage by being prepared to practice your stuff.
  • Let yourself shine!  We want to see your excitement - tell us why your work is important.
  • Be sure to hit on the three most important points about your work - (1) give us context, (2) tell us what you are going to do and (3) what you are hoping to find.
  • Less is more - don't overload the audience with content - stick to major points.
  • Be professional but try to be relaxed too.
  • Your audience is typically rooting for you and wants to hear what you have to say.
  • Bust it out and put forward your best effort, but realize that this is PRACTICE and that in the end it really doesn't matter. Does that seem counter intuitive? Should I not be saying things like this?! Perhaps. But, it's my personal philosophy that you've probably heard before - we want all of you to do a great job and you will. This is just another step in the process. Outcomes don't matter that much as long as you know that you made your best effort.  Presenting can make people a little crazy (some actually stop breathing) - but the stress really isn't worth it. It's just a conversation about your work. Tell us about your research and chances are we are going to want to know more!
McNair scholars rock and you are all going to do great in your own sweet ways. Enjoy this! All of the sudden you are going to turn around and it will be time to start practicing for the fall.  :)

Sunday, April 7

Goodness Vs. Greatness

As I walked out of the newly-released Disney movie Oz: The Great and Powerful this past weekend, I was struck with how apt its core message was: aspire not to greatness, but to goodness. As a natural over-achiever, I have, as long as I can remember, wanted to achieve great things. Yet, even as I won academic scholarships and research awards, I was never content. 

Over the years, though, I have come to realize that it is when I am volunteering that I feel most at peace. Indeed, while volunteering, I feel purposeful, happy, and even inspired. Completing community service has helped me to realize that doing good in the world should not be regarded as any less of an achievement than being great. Indeed the “goodness” spread through service to others has far-reaching and lasting impacts on the individual volunteering and those they are serving: volunteering is humbling; it allows individuals to apply their knowledge, passions, and talents for the benefit of others, especially the less fortunate; it allows one to connect with others in their community; it fosters open-mindedness and acceptance of diverse populations; it allows one to “Pay It Forward”; and it can be a great way for one to gain new experiences, see new places, and be exposed to new ideas. 

McNair Scholars are truly some of the best, brightest, and most inspiring individuals I have ever met. All of you have overcome adversity of one form or another to get where you are and you have now set for yourself some very big and impressive goals. I can tell you first hand, though, how easy it is to get caught up in these goals and to (1) not make time for the seemingly "small" and non-relevant things like volunteering here and there in the community and (2) not realize that by doing good, even in small amounts here and there, we really truly are making big contributions to society and developing into the great people we want to be. :)

Sunday, March 31

Reaching Out

On Friday we had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion on mentoring with three really amazing CMU faculty members.  Dr. Phame Camarena, Dr. Claudia Douglass and Dr. Michelle Steinhilb all shared their stories of having instrumental mentors (whether they knew it at the time or not) along their educational and professional journeys as well as their experiences mentoring students.  Candid with their advice, I think the primary message is to be open to finding mentoring opportunities in lots of different places and don't be afraid to reach out to others.  You never know when someone will end up being a pivotal force in your life.

Another key point emphasized by all of our panel members is being proactive in fostering mentoring relationships early on in your undergraduate career.  No matter what trajectory you follow once you complete your bachelor's, chances are, you will need people (read: more than just one person) to vouch for your character, provide a reference for a job or write a letter of recommendation for graduate school.  Becoming connected with faculty (beyond just attending their class) can often lead to mutually beneficial relationships - especially if you are assisting a faculty member with their research and doing a really awesome job!

The take home:
  • Develop mentoring relationships with as many individuals as you think you need
  • Be open and curious 
  • Be super respectful and always work hard
  • Say thank you - a lot!
  • Be yourself and ask lots of questions

Sunday, March 24

New Heights

I find this time of year to be very exciting.  And a little sad.  I'm excited about the new phases of life and new experiences approaching for our scholars.  I'm sad that some are going to be leaving us.  That's part of it though.

I encourage you all to take pause with where you are at this moment.  I'm thinking about our graduating scholars finishing up their final semester at CMU and preparing to move to their new city or town to begin their graduate work next fall.  HUGE changes there.  Finishing one chapter in your life and moving into another.  All of your work, all of the experiences you've had at CMU, all of these things have led you to this point.  Take pause and really think about that.

:: Justin C and Sara headed to Athens, Georgia
:: Jenn and Tom headed to Ithaca, New York
:: Tanisha, Chance and gang headed south south to San Marcos, Texas -- or we could say Austin!
:: Darnell staying put at CMU for just a bit longer then who knows!
:: Jared and Robyn going to Mad-town (aka Madison, Wisconsin)
:: Maame following suite -- party in Mad-town!
:: Katelyn -- another soon to be Wisconsinite -- cruising to Milwaukee!
:: Ke`Ara likely to find a home in the big city of Nashville.
:: And Justin M -- I'm going to make an "educated guess" and say New York City it will be.

Then we have scholars headed to new cities to set up shop in new labs with new faculty mentors. These scholars are "trying on" their top-choice graduate programs for size by having secured (highly sought after and lucrative) positions in a Summer Research Opportunity Program (CLICK HERE for more info on these SROP's).  This is one of the best ways I know to get yourself into a graduate program.  This is a critical juncture in their journeys to graduate school.  I'm excited to see what the summer brings and what connections might be made.

:: Sam's going to Pittsburgh (after a short jaunt to Bermuda)
:: Nicole is joining Jared and Maame in Madison

AND, we have all of our new scholars preparing themselves (right at this moment) to become original researchers.  Proposals are being prepared and presentations are being crafted.  This group is getting ready to advance into the realm of scholarly research with gusto and confidence. I can see it already.  I see enthusiasm.  I see pride.  Yes I see apprehension and some confusion, but that always comes along the way.  Once we hit the spring research symposium, these scholars are sailing with new found energy and accomplishment.  It's going to be a summer of exploration--both personally and professionally.  Pause where you are right now and soak it in.

Pause where ever you are right now and SOAK IT IN.

Sunday, March 17

McNair Color Runners

We choose to take a "holistic approach" with our scholars.  We want our scholars to do research, go to grad school and get their Ph.D.'s--yes.  But really, we want them to be rock stars in LIFE.  In order to do things--like get your Ph.D. (no big, right?)--you've gotta have it together (on lots of levels).  Baseline--you've gotta be solid in how you take care of yourself.  If you aren't, the foundation from which you do any work or strive for any goal won't sustain you.  I like to say that you have to be solid in the EAT--SLEEP--MOVE categories, if you will.  What does this have to do with being a Color Runner?  Read on...

So, last year, we were talking about how yoga was making us feel stronger. We were talking about having a scholar garden during the summer.  And then Julie started talking about running.  Now, I've never classified myself as a runner--a trotter perhaps--but I'm open to new possibilities.  I was also dabbling with this idea of working with a personal trainer--something that scared me but I knew would be good for me.  I was tired of being a wuss.

Julie started researching 5K's and we thought it might be fun to do it as a group---with the scholars. Not a ton of options locally, she came across the Color Run in Ann Arbor.  Now, if you aren't familiar with the Color Run's (held in most major cities) - check it out HERE.  It's the "happiest 5K on the planet" -- for sure!!

Running partners for life!
We do yoga on Wednesday's together during the summer--the luxury of consistency during the summer is spectacular.  Besides yoga, a couple of the scholars started training for the 5K (Katelyn was our leader!) and started sharing how it's going.  Julie and I took this inspiration and started running more.  Julie did her first 5K in June!  Even though some scholars weren't "especially keen" on the idea, they were willing to come along as "Color Walkers" (there's always a ton of those!) and to cheer the group on.  What was cool is that we had a group goal (of doing the Color Run mid-July) and we had something to look forward to.  I had never done a run despite being surrounded by runners--my husband Ken, his brother, his Dad--all marathon-type runners. Luckily my training sessions really helped strengthen me and build my confidence in this regard.

Turned out that one of dear mentors--Dr. Shelly Hinck--came along too!  What a treat!  We went down the night before and hung out in Ann Arbor.  What a treat!  We had shirts made up that said, "We Are McNair" -- pretty cool.  We felt pretty cool.  People tend to "go all out" at these Color Run's - you start out in white (accompanied by such embellishments as tutu's and tube socks) and then you end up -- in FULL COLOR.  The best part (perhaps?) is the end where everyone gathers and releases all of their remaining color and dances around and is HAPPY.  Did I mention it's the happiest 5K on the planet?  :-)

All in all--what a great activity to add to our repertoire of McNair activities--all meant to feed into our "group growth" and "empowerment."  We posted on Facebook (of course) and a ton of McNair alumni commented on how they wished we would have done that when they were in the program. So we decided to make it an annual event and invite anyone who wants to attend with us to come out and "Be McNair."

I know Shelly's in and I'm working on some of our other mentors.  McNair alumni--come back to Michigan for a visit and be a McNair Color Runner!!  Our 2013 group--I'm expecting you to be in!! Maureen said she's going this year too!  Julie is already working on her speed and Kim just started running with her personal trainer.  Too cool!  Me?  I want to start running more (if the snow ever goes away) and my goal is a 10-minute mile (this is a good pace for me, a bit of a stretch, but achievable).  Later in the summer I'm planning on doing a 10K.  The Color Run will be great prep!


Monday, March 11

Be Fully Expressed. Be the Spark.

This weekend I attended a conference called Spark of Awesome in northern Minnesota. Yes, I drove through a blizzard—literally—on my way home, but it was worth it. I got to meet an amazing group of women from around the country, including the extraordinary Danielle LaPorte. I’m back in Michigan with some new revelations about myself, my work and my life. We all need pauses in our regular lives to carry ourselves higher. Perhaps that’s what spring break provided to you.

I think folks—my scholars, my friends, my family—know that I find Danielle’s work utterly inspiring on many levels. It’s the reason I started weaving her work into our work with our McNair students. From feedback I’ve received so far, I think you guys are enjoying this exposure and opportunity for exploration.

Danielle and me
I spent an entire day with Danielle and we covered a lot of things. Did we ever! Looking over my many notations, the one speaking most to me is this concept of self expression. Danielle said, “Being fully expressed is the greatest gift I can give my child.” Taking this further, being fully expressed is the greatest gift we can give any (and every) person we come in contact with.

We are in the business of self expression—on a scholarly and intellectual level and on a personal level. It takes great courage to express yourself. We all do it in varying degrees. I know that I often hold back out of fear. What I’m coming back with from this experience is the desire and resolve to live each day fully expressed. I’m not sure what that might look like exactly for me each day, but I want to find out!

It was funny, at the conference, others were referring to our group as the “sparkly people” and at breakfast I heard someone say, “oh, that’s the sparkler group.” To this I say---SWEET! I love being part of the sparkler group. To me, living fully expressed means being confident in myself and being willing to show my spark. So, I challenge you to let your spark out so that others can see and benefit---from YOU. Be the spark. Be fully expressed every day. I guarantee you will grow and change in some unexpected and remarkable ways…

Wednesday, March 6

Introducing our New McNair Scholars!

We are pleased to announce our newest cohort of scholars who are setting off on their McNair journey. Each scholar is developing an original research project with a faculty research mentor and learning about the process of research in their field. This summer, the scholars will complete their research projects and devise their plan for applying to graduate school. Stay tuned for the McNair Fall Research Symposium to hear about their findings and see this awesome group emerge as future Ph.D.’s. None of this would be possible if we weren't successfully awarded another five years of funding from the U.S. Department of Education. We are very grateful for the opportunity to continue this important work with our McNair scholars. See CMU's official press release here.

2013 McNair Cohort
Bruce Barnes, Sociology 
Amanda Clark, Biochemistry 
Andy Deery, Neuroscience 
Jim Dunn, Biochemistry 
Matt Forbes, Political Science 
Rhianna French, Psychology 
Rob Fritchman, Sociology 
Shantell Johnson, Psychology 
Nicole Lynn-Bell, Biology 
Leah Mays, Math 
Ashley Pollock, Geography 
Amanda Sleezak, Health Sciences 
Jayson Smith, Biology 
Tara Vancil, Biomedical Sciences 
Mickey Wong, Linguistics

Sunday, February 24

Core Desired Feelings

During one of our first sessions together we talked about how we want to feel. Danielle LaPorte walks you further through the process in Fire Starter Session Three. Today I'd like to revisit those core desired feelings---I LOVE seeing the many fantastic words being used to describe feelings our group aspires to.

Here are several highlights:
  • Fearless
  • Strong
  • Genuine
  • Beautiful
  • Charged
  • Content
  • Imaginative
  • Inspired
  • Confident
  • Valuable
  • Engaged
  • Focused
So we ask ourselves---what do I need to do, have and experience in order to feel---X?

What do I need to do, have and experience to feel X---on a daily basis?
What do I need to do, have and experience to feel X---on a weekly basis?
What do I need to do, have and experience to feel X---on a monthly basis?

The goal is implement small actions in order to make our desired feelings a reality for ourselves as much as possible.

Check out this link---McNair Core Desired Feelings---to see what our group strives for each day.

(right click and "save image as" if you wish to grab the image for your computer, etc)



In the McNair experience, mentors are front and central.  They are an integral part of the experience because they provide expertise, offer support and encouragement, and many times, open doors of opportunity that might seem impossible today.  It’s not to say that the mentor relationship can “make or break you” – but having a good one can make all the difference.

A good mentor will:
  • Teach you how to do research in your field
  • Expand your knowledge of the field
  • Teach you how to ask questions – good questions!
  • Model what it’s like to be a professional in the field
  • Lend their expertise, wisdom and insights
  • Share their experiences and relate them to your own
  • Challenge and support you at the same time
  • Give you constructive feedback and encourage you to do more
  • Connect you with colleagues and other professionals to help you network
  • Help you figure out your path
  • Help you make good choices about your education and work opportunities
  • Call you out when you’re not holding up “your end of the deal”
So, how do you set out to have the best possible mentor relationship?  Well, you try your hardest to be true to yourself, you put forward your energy and enthusiasm, you be respectful and then you let go.  No one has the power to control others.  All you can do is put yourself out there in an honest way and hope that your mentor will be a good fit for you.  And if it’s not?  You move along and find yourself the next mentor who WILL be a great fit for you!

Holding up your end of the deal:
  • Connect with your mentor regularly and in person
  • Come prepared with a list of 2-3 major items you would like to discuss
  • Come prepared with your “homework” or “to do list” completed from your last mentor meeting
  • Be honest with your mentor if you are not quite understanding a research task or how it fits within the bigger picture of your project
  • It’s useful to step back and review the “big picture” from time to time to make sure it’s fresh in your mind
  • Focus on your work together and not personal problems and issues---it’s good to get your know mentor on a personal level (this tends to happen naturally, over a period of time)---but keep the focus of your conversations on your research
  • If something isn’t working for you or you can’t make a scheduled meeting, just be honest and get in touch with your mentor well beforehand to discuss
  • Make sure you know how your mentor likes to be contacted---mostly through email, have they offered you their cell phone number, do they text?  In general, you should only call/text (if that’s okay with them) during “normal business hours” and not super early in the morning or super late at night!  You can always send an email.
  • Go above and beyond.  Let your mentor see your passion by not just doing exactly what they say---take their guidance as a starting point and then run with it---this is truly the basis of a burgeoning researcher at heart!
  • Most important: have fun, work hard and enjoy the process… 

Monday, January 7

How Do You Want To Feel?

Welcome 2013! It's here. So, what do you want 2013 to look like for you? How do you want to feel? With the turn of the year and the start of a new semester, your outlook and approach to things can feel especially fresh.  It's always a good thing to reflect upon the past year or semester and think about the things that worked, things that didn't work, what might have been particularly inspiring to you, major accomplishments that you can build on, areas in your life that might need improvement.

For me, I'm pretty psyched that we got refunded and I can keep doing this amazing work with some amazing scholars.  Now that's an accomplishment!  I'm proud that I ran my first 5K at a 10-minute mile pace and started personal training - made me feel strong.  I'm inspired by my new thinking about my work - coaching work that is - and building on this with my upcoming interactions with all of you.

Time still escapes me though and this is an area in my life that I really want to work on this year.  I know that the key for me in being most productive - creatively, personally, professionally - is to rise early to create the time and space to do just that.  I also know that if I could institute better "sleep hygiene" that it would bring this goal into reach.  Going to bed around the same time and waking up around the same time (including weekends!) is essential but hard to do!  Ideally, I'm shooting for sleep between 9:30 and 10 and wake between 5 and 5:30.  Food is the other thing that needs work!  I'm still a sugar addict.  Late at night (and weekend!) sugar eating isn't doing me any favors and I know it.  Most of you will say - oh Lynn, you eat so well - well, that's because you usually aren't with me during nights and weekends...LOL!  I know that if I brought this into moderation, it would not only make me feel better, it would improve my sleep.  A win-win - yes?

So, how do I want to feel in the New Year?  My top-three at the moment: effortless, smart and in my zone.  I want to make things as easy as possible and stop dwelling on the "shoulda coulda woulda's" in my life.  I want to use my gifts and talents and stop second guessing myself.  I want to develop an inner and outer focus that will bring my creativity to light.  I want to feel at ease when I'm interfacing with others.  When I'm at ease, I feel alive and joyful.

How do you want to feel?  Share with us in the comments below!  Cheers to 2013!  :-)