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McNair Scholars Program

Current McNair Scholars Biographies

Jason Fly

Name: Jason Fly

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Major: Psychology

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2018

Jason Fly is an undergraduate Psychology major at the University of Northern Iowa. His research interests include the study of resilience and its implications in the prevention and treatment of stress disorders, and cognitive strategies for increasing and inducing empathy. After graduating he plans to seek a Ph.D. in Clinical Science with research concentrated around stress and coping in order to develop clinical tools to prevent the onset of stress-related disorders such as PTSD. He intends to apply the lenses of race, class, and gender to his research in an effort to better understand the interplay of sociocultural differences and psychopathology—thus ultimately bringing more awareness, prevention, and treatment to underserved populations—and to use the principles of Positive Psychology to develop a mental health checklist protocol that can be used in clinical settings as a standard supplement to traditional annual health examinations. 

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Name: Dianna Huisman

Hometown: Osage, IA

Major: Biology and Biochemistry 

Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

Dianna Huisman is a an undergraduate Biology and Biochemistry double major at the University of Northern Iowa from Osage,IA. She is currently a Junior and set to graduate next May 2018. After graduation Dianna plans to seek a Ph.D. in Genetics with research concentrated on cancer research. Dianna joined the McNair Scholars Program to gain research experience in her field that is not typically so easily and readily available. Dianna is currently employeed in the biology program at UNI. Her interests and hobbies include running marathons, ballroom dancing, and playing the flute. She is devoted to graduate with honors and help change the world through cancer research 

Aarika Forney

Name: Aarika Forney

Hometown: Waterloo, IA

Major: History

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2018

Aarika Forney is an undergraduate senior at the University of Northern Iowa. She will receive her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science with a minor in International Relations in May 2018. She has received her Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice from Hawkeye Community College. She joined the McNair Scholars Program to become better prepared for graduate studies. Her research interests include refugee and immigrant studies, race relations, and international politics. After graduating from the University of  Northern Iowa she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Refugee and Immigrant Studies or Criminal Justice. She hopes to work nationally and internationally with refugees and immigrants. Aarika is the Vice President of the student organization RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Support and Empowerment) and volunteers with EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center) where she mentors a West High School student.

Sarah Hofmeyer

Name: Sarah Hofmeyer

Hometown: Alton, IA

Major: Political Science

Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

Andrew Jessip

Name: Andrew Jessip

Hometown: Sioux City, IA

Major: Global Studies: International Communication

Minor: Spanish

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2018

Andew Jessip is an undergraduate senior Global Studies major at the University of Northern Iowa. Andrew joined the McNair Scholars Program to gain access to the many resources as well as develop academically and professionally. His research interests include the study of underrepresented populations in college settings but more specifically the integration of immigrant and first generation populations. After graduation Andrew plans to seek a P.h.D. in Educational Leadership with research concentrated on minority student development. In addition, he hopes to work with international recruitment or populations on college campuses. Andrew is involved with UNI Jump start. UNI Hispanic Latino Union, and UNI Ethnic Student Promoters. 

Taylor Olson

Name: Taylor Olson

Hometown: Cedar Rapids, IA

Major: Computer Science and Math

Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

Taylor Olson, a senior undergraduate student studying Computer Science and Math from Cedar Rapids, IA at the University of Northern Iowa. Taylor encourages students to apply for the McNair Scholars Program because it offers you the opportunity to meet and build a network of prestigious students and professionals from around the world. Taylors research interests include artificial intelligence and developing an appealing user interface. Taylor joined the McNair Scholars Program to gai insight into the graduate school process and receive needed help through this process. 

Ashley Sanchez

Name: Ashley Sanchez

Hometown: West Liberty, IA

Major: Psychology

Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

Ashley Sanches is an undergraduate Psychology major at the University of Northern Iowa. Her research interests include the correlation between immigration and mental health. After graduation she plans to seek a P.h.D. in Sociology. Ashley joined the McNair Scholars Program to fruther prepare for graduate school admission. In her free time, she is involved in Panthers for DREAM Iowa, Sigma Delta Pi, UNIDOS. and the Psychology Club. 

Dante Miller

Name: Dante Miller

Hometown: Austell, GA

Major: Sociology

Expected Graduation Date: Fall 2018

Dante Miller is an undergraduate senior Sociology major at the University of Northern Iowa. His research interests include the study of sexuality and gender, media representations of minorities, and law and politics. Dante joined the McNair Scholars Program because he really wants to develop a set plan for his 10 year plan and feels McNair will help him do that while also becoming a quality P.h.D. candidate. After graduation Dante plans to pursue a P.h.D. in Sociology and become a professor. Dante is currently involved in Black Student Union, Debate Team. Summer Orientation, LGBT Center mentor, and Social Justice Movements. 

Kyla Ford

Name: Kyla Ford

Hometown: Lisbon. IA

Major: Social Work

Expected Graduation: Spring 2019

Kyla Ford s an undergraduate Social Work major at the University of Northern Iowa. Her research interests include the treatment of various bipolar disorders. After graduating she plans to seek a P.h.D. in Social Work. Kyla joined the McNair Scholars Program to further her skill set  in the research field as well as expose herself to new academic opporunities. In addition, she joined to learn how to highlight and utilize her strengths and development. In her free time, Kyla is involved in Phi Theta Kappa, Active Minds, and employed at the Boys and Girls Club and the YWCA. 

Jewels Howard

Name: Julie(Jewles) Howard

Hometown: Champaign, IL

Major: Criminology and Psychology

Expected Graduation: Spring 2019

Jewels Howard is a junior undergraduate, McNair Scholar, as well as a student mentor at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). With specific interests in recidivism, rehabilitation, and overall criminal
research, her minor in criminology makes her inquisitiveness in regard to the philosophical world of prisoners within the correctional system ideal. Her intentions are to discover the socio-psychological aspect of prisoners facing lengthy sentences with the juxtaposition of high recidivism and the quality of rehabilitation. Jewels would like to examine the fundamentals of the correctional system, as well as form innovative ideas in order to enhance such system. While in pursuit of her PhD. in criminal psychology, she has received an A.A. in general studies, and will obtain a B.A. in psychology. With a certificate in French, and a four-year-old daughter, Jewels' academic excellence is miniscule to what she has to offer to society. As an active volunteer and client at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Jewels not
only assists those in need, she is of the same need; being a first-generation Afro-American student coming from an impoverished background, she makes an exemplary candidate for the McNair Scholar
program. Currently, Jewels is an active founding member of the UNI parenting group, as well as a student mentor for those students facing similar tribulations. Jewels' daily endeavors outside of UNI
consist of spending time with her daughter and jumping Double Dutch.

Vanessa Jordan

Name: Vanessa Jordan

Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Major: Criminology and Psychology

Expected Graduation: Spring 2019

Vanessa Jordan is an undergraduate criminology major at the University of Northern Iowa. Her research interests include the study of psychology in law. After graduation she plans to seek a P.h.D. in Justice Studies and eventually become a crisis negotiator. Vanessa joined the McNair Scholars Program to receive the proper assistance needed to beconme a doctoral candidate. She is a first generation student and she knew that McNair would help guide her through this challenging journey. In her free time, Vanessa is an intern at the Riverview sexual assault center in Waterloo, IA  

                      

Name: Niria White

Hometown: Waterloo, IA

Major: History

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2019

Niria White is an undergraduate junior Public History major and Waterloo, Iowa native. Her research interests include African American labor history, food, and cultural traditions. After graduation she plans to pursue a PhD in African American History and become a university professor. She is active in the Black Students Union and UNI Save, and was an Alderman Scholarship recipient and Grout Museum intern.

 

                              Lyn Tacket

Name: Lyn Tackett

Hometown: Glendora, CA

Major: Anthropology, Biology

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2019

Lyn Tackett is an undergraduate junior Anthropology major from Glendora, CA at the University of Northern Iowa. Her careers have included professional music, small business/entrepreneurship and she is a licensed aesthetician. She served on the Waterloo Planning and Zoning Commission as president for Cedar Falls Business and Professional Women. Lyn plans to research the origins of ancient plant-based medicines and help preserve a record of indigenous healing practices as an Ethnobiologist. Lyn’s honors include the National Society of Leadership and Success,  Christy McKeel Award, All American Hall of Fame Band Honors, and the Dale Carnegie Achievement Award. She has written several articles for popular publications including Redbook (Dec 2014), FIRST for Women (June 2015) and the online publications Stylecaster, CafeMom, eHow, Pregnancy Corner, and How to be a Redhead.

 

                              Yakira Sanders

Name:Yakira Sanders

Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Major: Social Work 

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2019

Yakira Sanders is an undergraduate junior Social Work major from Des Moines, IA at the University of Northern Iowa. Yakira joined the McNair Scholars Program to get a headstart on preparing for her P.h.D. as well as her future 10 year plan. Her research interests include the study of minority and underrepresented students student development. After graduation she plans to pursue a P.h.D. in Educational Leadership. Yakira is active in Black Student Union, First Year Peer Mentoring, Summer Orientation, and Success Coaching. 

                               Santiago Villafana

Name: Santiago Villafana

Hometown: Tama-Toledo, IA

Major: Sociology

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2019

Santiago Villafana is an  undergraduate junior Sociology major from Tama-Toledo, IA at the University of Northern Iowa. Santiago joined the McNair Scholars Program to begin to build and lay the foundation towards successfully earning a doctoral degree. His research interests include racial and gender disparities within the workforce/employment. After graduation Santiago plans to pursue a P.h.D. in Intersectionality Social Structures and become a professor. Santiago is currently involved in the Hispanic Latino Student Union, Connecting Alumni to Students, and the interested men of Lambda Theta Phi. In addition, he was a recipient of the prestigious UNI CSBS Alderman Scholarship. 


Facts about the McNair Program

Discussion Panel at Stanford

  • We have had 161 scholars in the program to date.
  • Excluding the current undergraduates,  137 of 145 McNair scholars have graduated from UNI, a graduation rate of 95%.
  • 60 scholars have earned graduate degrees (43.8%).
  • To date, we have 48 students who have earned a terminal masters degree. Nine former McNair students have earned Ph.D.s, two others received Doctor of Medicine. One earned a Juris Doctorate and practices law.
  • Eleven scholars who are currently enrolled in graduate programs.

Follow the links to learn more about recent graduates who were in the McNair Scholars Program, the alumni who were involved or if you are a prospective student interested in the program.