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Clockwise, from top, are six of this year's graduating McNair Scholars: Anthony Rodriguez, Josue Guadarrama, Lisa A. Gonzales, Erica A. Nieblas, Suzette M. Puente, and Burrel J. Vann Jr. Photo by Karen Tapia

McNair Scholar Success

Eight Undergrads Complete Degrees, Pursue Graduate Studies

May 18, 2010

By Mimi Ko Cruz
Updated June 8, 2010

Eight McNair Scholars participated in Cal State Fullerton commencement ceremonies last month and, now, are preparing for graduate school.

The McNair Scholars Program honors Ronald E. McNair, the second African-American to fly in space, as mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984. He perished with his six crew mates in the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle seconds after take-off, January 28, 1986.

At Cal State Fullerton, the program annually pairs 25 students with mentors to hone their research skills and guide their participation in research projects throughout the year. The program is open to participants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have demonstrated strong academic potential. The program's director and staff work closely with participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements, and track their progress in graduate programs.

This year’s Class of 2010 McNair Scholars are Chris Marcello Brewer, Carmen Drummond, Lisa A. Gonzalez, Jusue Guadarrama, Erica A. Nieblas, Anthony Rodriguez, Burrel J. Vann Jr. and Suzette M. Puente.

Graduating McNair Scholar Chris Marcello Brewer. Photo by Karen Tapia

Chris Marcello Brewer

Brewer of Fullerton earned his bachelor’s degree in biological science with a minor in chemistry. He began conducting research with Katherine Kantardjieff, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in 2007, to determine the atomic structure of the bacterial heme protein Cytochrome C. He has presented his research at various conferences and universities nationwide.

Brewer will be spending the next year as a research intern at the University of Massachusetts and pursue a doctoral degree after its completion.

“I would like to work on the front lines against infections and disease by pursuing a career in the Centers for Disease Control,” Brewer said. “I want to understand how particular agents circumvent the immune system and take residency within organisms.”

Carmen Drummond graduated in January, but participated in commencement ceremonies in May. Photo by Karen Tapia

Carmen Drummond

Drummond completed her bachelor’s degree in political science and communications in January. She’s been living in Washington, D.C., since then, working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where she's been drafting policies, procedures and communications documents.

This fall, Drummond will begin working on her master’s degree at American University.

Her McNair Scholar research involved exploring and describing the development of political attitudes and behaviors in current undergraduate academic life. Her mentor was Stephen J. Stambough, associate professor of political science.

“My study proposes that if resources are available and something engages students' interest in politics, work, academic experiences, co-curricular involvement, service participation and church participation may be avenues for the development of both civic skills and social connections that lead to political involvement,” Drummond said.

Lisa A. Gonzalez

Gonzalez of Brea has completed her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and heading to the University of Michigan, where she will work on her master’s degree in social work.

Josue Guadarrama

Guadarrama of Santa Ana earned his bachelor’s degree in human communication studies and heading to Washington State University, where he will pursue his doctoral degree in counseling psychology.

Erica A. Nieblas

Nieblas of Highland will complete her undergraduate degree in philosophy and English in August, and plans to pursue a doctoral degree in philosophy next year.

Anthony Rodriguez

Anthony Rodriguez will begin studying psychology as a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton this fall. Photo by Karen Tapia

Rodriguez of Westminster, a child and adolescent studies major, will begin work on a master’s degree in psychology this fall at Cal State Fullerton. After he earns his master’s degree, he plans to pursue a doctoral degree.

He’s been conducting research with his mentor Allen W. Gottfried, professor of psychology and founder of the Fullerton Longitudinal Study. Rodriguez’s research involves examining intrinsic academic motivation and parental educational expectations.

Rodriguez has published 10 papers in the last two years and presented at conferences and universities nationwide. During the summer, he will take part in a quantitative training program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology at the University of San Diego. In August, he will be presenting his research at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in San Diego.

His goal, said Rodriguez, is to become a developmental and quantitative researcher and professor.

“I see how the face of psychology is always expanding and I want to be on the forefront producing innovative research that will contribute to the future directions of psychology,” he said.

Burrel J. Vann Jr.

Vann of Placentia has completed his bachelor’s degree in sociology and will return to his alma mater to work toward a master’s degree in sociology in the fall. He eventually plans to pursue a doctorate.

As a McNair Scholar, Vann worked on several research projects, among them an examination of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley with Dana M. Collins, assistant professor of sociology.

Under the direction of Iris Blandón-Gitlin, assistant professor of psychology, Vann is conducting a study on the likelihood of false confessions. “Researchers have suggested that a person’s culture may have an influence on their likelihood of confessing to a crime they did not commit,” Van said. "We want to understand if culture really is a risk factor for false confessions.”

Vann said his goal is to “become a community-engaged scholar, researcher and activist.”

“After obtaining my Ph.D., I plan to use research as a vehicle for encouraging political participation and activism. Participation in social movements is relatively low. I want to discover ways in which participation can be increased.”

Suzette M. Puente

Puente of Montebello completed her bachelor’s degree in mathematics. In the fall, she will begin her graduate studies at UC Berkeley, where she is receiving a full scholarship.

In Appreciation

All eight scholars credit the McNair program for preparing them for graduate studies.

Brewer said the program exposed him to “the most important aspect of graduate life, which is research, as well as self motivation and civility."

“The McNair Program has really taught me how to successfully navigate the world of academia by teaching me how to communicate and engage with a whole range of experts,” Brewer added.

Drummond called the program “very intensive, yet insightful.”

“Had it not been for this program, I wouldn’t have gained the knowledge or willpower to seek out research opportunities,” Vann said. “I have become a more active and hard-working person through my two years of guidance by Dr. Patricia-Anne Johnson and Mr. Gerald Bryant.”

Bryant is the McNair Scholars Program director and Johnson is the academic coordinator. The program is supported by an annual grant of $225,000 from the U.S. Department of Education.

Burrel J. Vann Jr. Photo by Karen Tapia


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