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