An inside look at McNair/Mellon Fellows program
After spending their summer on campus researching and preparing their projects, Oberlin’s McNair Scholars and Mellon Fellows are presenting their work to the public. The presentations cover topics as varied as “Different Methods of Neural Cell Staining,” “Bilingual Education Policy in the United States” and “The Westernization of Christ.”
Oberlin Mellon and McNair Scholars have been making hour-long sets of presentations on Thursdays at 12:20 p.m. in Wilder Room 101. The 2005 Fall McNair and Mellon Student Research presentation series started on Sept. 22 and will end on Nov. 19.
On Thursday, McNair Scholars and Oberlin juniors Jamiella Ortiz and Andrea Hemphill made their presentations, “The Riddle We Can’t Guess: Leveling Emily Dickinson’s Poetry” and “The Art of Madness: Shaping Fantasy through Reality, A Look at Cervantes: Don Quixote.”
Hemphill said, “My presentation is looking at the different aspects of Cervantes and how it has been viewed over the years. What really grabbed my attention the most [about Don Quixote] was that so many people could identify with it because there are so many things you can take out of it.”
Ortiz was also excited to put on her fall presentation because “I really feel that there is so much more to Dickinson than those two poems everyone reads in high school. She’s extremely important, not just as a poet but as a thinker.”
Both McNair scholars were enthusiastic about their experience and plan to continue doing undergraduate research.
“I fell in love with not only my work, but the research process in general,” said Ortiz. “I loved waking up to a stack of books and spending my mornings poring over literature.”
“I hadn’t really done any type of research before, but the program taught me to think in new ways,” said Hemphill. “It inspired me to think about life after Oberlin and opened my eyes to new opportunities.”
In addition to their specific research projects, McNair scholars are prepared for applying to graduate school as part of the program.
“There’s actually a lot that I have to prepare for before my senior year, and I wouldn’t have even known about any of it if not for the program,” said Ortiz.
“This put grad school into my head because where I come from college isn’t an option,” said Hemphill
“The program is entirely suited to students at an economic disadvantage as well,” agreed Ortiz. “My housing and dining was paid for this summer, as well as some of my research materials. Plus, I was given a biweekly stipend for my work.”
The McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The program is named after Robert E. McNair, the second African-American astronaut and a victim of the Challenger disaster.
According to the Office of Undergraduate Research, the program “was established to increase the number of students in doctoral degree programs who are low-income and first generation undergraduates or from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education, particularly African Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans/Alaska Natives.” To qualify for the program applicants must meet these qualifications and be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program was created by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to honor Benjamin E. Mays, the son of freed slaves, president of Morehouse College and a mentor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Fellowship’s mission statement says its chief goal is “to increase the number of minority students, and others with demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, who will pursue Ph.Ds. in core fields in the arts and sciences.”
The application for both the Mellon and McNair programs is due Nov. 14. The
two programs also hold their next information session on Oct. 19.