17th Annual California McNair Scholars Symposium: Building the New Academy
McNair Scholars have returned from the 17th Annual California McNair Scholars Symposium, which was aptly titled, “Building the New Academy.” Over 50 McNair Programs with budding future academics from across the United States were welcomed to the opening ceremony by Dr. Harold H. Campbell, director of the UC Berkeley McNair Scholars Program, which hosted the conference.
Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley Professor of Astronomy, Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion, and world-renowned astronomer whose work on NASA’s Kepler Mission is currently making headlines, also welcomed McNair Scholars and emphasized one of the key reasons we had all made the trip to the UC Berkeley campus, “… honoring [students] accomplishments which are living testimonies to the aspirations of Challenger Astronaut, Dr. Ronald E. McNair.”
Throughout the conference, each scholar presented their original research, typically in a presentation that included two or three other McNair Scholars from around the country whose research was related thematically or generally within the discipline. One UNL McNair scholar, Andrea Rieger, had the opportunity to share her research during one of the six plenary sessions featured throughout the conference. Andrea performed fabulously (much like her fellow McNair Scholars), and presented her work in front of 200 audience members!
Another highlight of the conference was a workshop which featured internationally known author, Donald Asher. Mr. Asher specializes in higher education, career planning, and specifically for the Berkeley McNair conference, compiling a successful graduate application. Asher’s dynamic presentation on the elements of a successful graduate school application left audience members energized and inspired. As scholar Brian Shreck noted, Asher’s talk, “… helped me to begin thinking about how I want to frame my personal statement for graduate school applications. His advice and examples gave me some great ideas for how to include my unique life experiences, such as my military experience, into my personal statement in such a way that it helps explain why I want to go to graduate school.”
It wasn’t all work and no play, however. Arguably, the highlight of the trip was the evening boat cruise up the San Francisco Bay. Scholars had dinner, enjoyed the sunset and Golden Gate Bridge on the top deck, sang karaoke, and some even learned the finer points of the art of DJ’ing (right Jeanette?)
As Michael Harpster reflected, “I began to realize that the Berkeley conference represented the final step of the scientific research process. This sharing of ideas and perspectives [at the conference] created an incredible academic environment. Ultimately, the McNair conference at Berkeley allowed me to move from seeing the MSRE research process in isolation to seeing it as a part of a larger network of academic processes.”