4:49 p.m., Aug. 17, 2009----Family and friends of the 2009 University of Delaware McNair Scholars gathered in Clayton Hall on Thursday, Aug. 13, to celebrate the accomplishments of McNair Scholars, both past and present.
The University’s McNair Scholars Program, which is designed to prepare talented and diverse students for graduate school, is the only program among 179 in the country to have achieved a perfect record of placing 100 percent of its students in competitive graduate schools around the world since it began 10 years ago. Most McNair Programs place about 38 percent of their graduates into graduate program. This year, UD’s graduating cohort includes students who will be studying at Cornell, Stanford and Indiana universities, as well as UD, and all the scholars have received substantial financial awards for study.
Tom Apple, provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, started the evening off by addressing all the McNair Scholars: “I've always had a great time interacting with McNair Scholars in the summer. I've always found it incredibly stimulating to meet these incredible people, and it's especially fun that in tonight's program we're going to have some of our previous cohorts here.”
One of those previous scholars was Christopher Rivera, the evening's keynote speaker and one of the original McNair Scholars at the University of Delaware. Rivera is the most recent UD McNair alumnus to complete his doctoral studies.
“This is an honor and it's very overwhelming," Rivera said. “Being a part of the original McNair Scholars, I feel in some way tied to all of you.”
Rivera talked about some of the struggles he has encountered in his life and said one of his favorite books as a child was The Little Engine that Could. Rivera said he kept the book's famous mantra in mind throughout his life's ups and downs. “The message that I learned from The Little Engine that Could is actually not that 'I think I can, I think I can.' It's 'I know I can, and I will.'”
After dinner, the McNair Legends, McNair Scholars from the past 10 years shared some of their memories of the program, each expressing gratitude towards the McNair Scholars Program.
Former McNair Scholar Angela Dickinson said, “Looking back, I can say that this experience truly helped me. It pushed me to work harder to make the improvements that I needed.”
Maria Palacas, McNair program director, presented awards to this year's students who completed the program, giving each student a nickname, such as “Shenise Edwards, McNair's illustrious Caribbean princess,” while showing a funny picture of the student on an overhead projector as they walked to the front of the room to accept their award.
Next Palacas recognized the McNair award winners.
Amy Griffin, assistant professor of psychology, won the Juan Villamarin Mentor of the Year Award. Mahsa Parvizi, a senior in biological sciences and psychology, received the Spirit of McNair Award.
The staff and faculty next selected a scholar who represents collegiality and the recipient of that award was Josefina Ayllon-Ayllon, a junior in foreign languages and literatures, Latin American studies and women's studies.
Oscar Romero, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was recognized by the votes of his fellow McNair Scholars as, according to Palacas, “a leader of leaders,” and Wuroh Timbo, an Honors junior in biological sciences and psychology, received the McNair Scholar of Promise Award.
The research presentation awards were next, with the third place poster award going to Parvizi, the second place poster award going to Leah Putman, a senior in biomedical engineering, history and mechanical engineering, and the first place poster award going to Manuel Rafael Diaz Jimenez, an Honors senior in chemical engineering.
The final awards given were the oral presentation awards. Third place went to Denise Arreola, a junior in criminal justice, legal studies and sociology; second place went to Yael Hernandez, a senior in music education and jazz studies, and first place went to Melissa Skolnick, a senior in journalism, sociology and Spanish.
Story by Adam Thomas
Photos by Evan Krape