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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. Jason joined the McNair Scholars program seeking fellowship with like-minded students, and for the mentorship and support that the program provides in hands-on research opportunities. In addition to being a McNair Scholar, Jason has been awarded the Alderman and the Roy J. Carver Scholarships. He has presented original research at UNI’s CSBS student conference, as well as at the International Association for Inter-American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When not studying, Jason enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, swimming, tennis, and restoring vintage automobiles.

Maribel Guevara-Myers

Name: Maribel Guevara-Myers

Hometown: Marshalltown, Iowa

Major: Psychology

Expected graduation date: B.A. May 2017

Maribel Guevara-Myers is a senior undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa. Her research interests include the integration of mindful based stress reduction into psychological therapy, school, and work settings. She also takes interest in research of treatment in addiction and neurodegenerative diseases. She plans to further her education by pursuing a PhD in counseling psychology. She joined the McNair Scholars Program because of the opportunities it provides for people of underrepresented backgrounds, like herself, to be prepared for graduate school. She is the director of communications for the First Generation Student organization, a member of the First Generation Student Task Force, and a Roy J. Carver Scholar. She enjoys playing ukulele and meditation in her free time.

                 Andrew Heppard

Name: Andrew Heppeard

Hometown: N/A

Majors: BA in English Language and Literature, and The Study of Religion

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2017

Andrew Heppeard has studied the stories behind peoples and cultures in both of his majors, and given them perspective with his minors in Philosophy and Ethics. By examining the reflections of ethical and cultural norms in the historical contexts of these stories, as well as their perpetuation throughout generations, he seeks to help change material for K-12 curriculum as a professor of ethics in literature. His performance in the study of literature earned an invitation to Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society in his Junior year. In 2013 Heppeard served as a UNI delegate to the National Association of College and University Residence Halls conference where he presented interview preparation programs for student leaders to utilize across the globe. At UNI he has lectured to the Explorers of Religion on a number of topics, including the portrayal of European Jews in Tolkien's Dwarves, and has since become the president of the organization. Heppeard currently writes opinion columns for the Northern Iowan, which can be found at In the fall of 2015, Heppeard's linguistics professor suggested that he apply to McNair due to his lifelong economic hardships and his performance within the classroom.

Margarita Meza

Name: Margarita Meza

Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Major: Psychology, Spanish minor

Expected graduation date: Fall 2016

Margarita Meza (Hispanic) is an undergraduate student at UNI. She has conducted and published research on the topic of positive psychology merged with second language acquisition. Another area of research she is involved with is in parapsychological research dealing with precognitive ability, or the detection of random future events. After graduating, she plans to seek a PhD. in the area of positive psychology with hopes to research positive interventions and the optimization of humans’ well-being. She joined the McNair Scholars Program because of the research and preparation for graduate school opportunities it provides, experiences in her field that will be valuable for her future. Currently, she is involved as a student admissions ambassador, psi chi honors society, sigma delta pi honor society, and the honors program at UNI. Apart from academics, of interest is jewelry making, drawing, and reading.

                            Quang Nguyen

Name: Quang Nguyen

Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Major: Psychology

Expected Graduation Date: May 2017

Quang Nguyen is a proud member of both the McNair Scholar and University Honors program. He hopes to pursue a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology after completing his time at UNI. He joined the program knowing that the tools and guidance offered were invaluable in achieving that goal. His research interests are currently centered on the integration of proxemics into the school/workforce environment in a way that optimizes learning/productivity. Quang currently works as a research assistant with an emphasis on outreach at UNI's Rod Library. In his free time, Quang enjoys studying the art of sleight of hand and card manipulations.

Sandra Piñedo

Name: Sandra Piñedo

Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Major: BS Health Promotion: Global Health Disparities and Women's Health

Expected graduation date: May 2017

Sandra Piñedo is a Health Promotion student at the University of Northern Iowa, specializing in Global Health Disparities and Women's health. Sandra transferred in the Fall of 2015 on a full tuition scholarship from Palo Alto College in San Antonio Texas. As a Mexican-American, she is passionate about serving minority populations and is grateful for all the resources that have empowered her to be successful in life, such as the McNair Scholars Program at UNI. Her research interests include maternal and infant health and preventing health complications by healthy pregnancies. Sandra is an active volunteer in the American Red Cross and a part of the Global Health Corps at UNI. She has traveled extensively to France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Hungry, Spain, Mexico and Honduras for courses and medical mission trips as a community health educator. Her ultimate goal is to work with UNICEF or UN Women for global health policy improvement. She is devoted to helping others and making this a better world.

                   Anthony Perez

Name: Anthony Perez

Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Major: Psychology

Expected graduation date: Spring 2017

Anthony Perez (Hispanic) is a senior studying psychology. He is interested in pursuing research around student development. After graduating from UNI Anthony is planning on attending graduate school to get a masters in student affairs and eventually his doctorate degree. Anthony joined the McNair Scholars Program because of the opportunity for support and assistance in the pursuit of his doctoral degree. He currently works as a resident assistant in an upperclassmen residence hall. In addition, he volunteers as a student admissions ambassador and assists the Office of Admission in recruiting and informing prospective students and their families. He enjoys playing paintball, hanging out with friends, and engaging in intellectually stimulating conversation over various topics.

               Dianna Huisman

Name: Dianna Huisman



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 marathins, ballroom dancing, and playing the flute. She is devoted to graduate with honors and help change the world through cancer research 

Facts about the McNair Program

Discussion Panel at Stanford

  • We have had 130 scholars in the program to date. There are currently 12 undergraduates in the program.
  • Excluding the current undergrads,  112 of 117 McNair scholars have graduated from UNI, a graduation rate of 95.7%.
  • 57 scholars have gone on to graduate school (48.7%).
  • To date, we have 33 students who have earned a terminal masters degree.  We have had 3 earn a J.D. and are now practicing law.  7 former McNair students have earned a Ph.D., and 1 other received a DCM (Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine).
  • There are 13 scholars who are currently enrolled in masters or PhD 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.