MSRE 2011: New Beginnings for the Junior Scholars
The 2011 McNair Summer Research Experience began on May 25th, 2011. The junior cohort of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program at UNL (depicted to the right) consists of Reinaldo Alcalde, Misam Ali, Mollie Dittmer, Brittany Jones, Nathan Lilienthal, Alyssa Lundahl, Christian Padilla, and Karina Pedroza.
The scholars received an overview of the summer research experience, expectations, and handouts to help them begin their journey. The scholars have been preparing their research projects throughout the 2010-2011 school year by selecting a research mentor, research topic, completing IRB protocols, and submitting research proposals.
At the session, “Frontier University Dreams” was shown to the scholars to demonstrate the history of the university’s structural, academic, and cultural development. The documentary, created by Nebraska Educational Television, details the university’s struggle to establish itself as a land-grant university since its 1869 charter. The university wanted to be accessible and accountable to all of Nebraska. Tuition was free and open to all. As a land-grant university, its primary goals were to instruct in the fields of agriculture and mechanics.
Charles Gere (depicted to the left), chair of the Education Committee at the time, championed the legislation that would create the charter for the University of Nebraska to be established in Lincoln, Nebraska. Gere also helped, in times of doubt, to reinvigorate the image of the university.
The documentary depicted many important Nebraskans in their studies and contributions to the University as either students, professors, or deans. Such figures are memorialized around the university in the names of buildings. Pound Hall was named for Louise Pound, a renowned athlete and UNL scholar who was the first to bring a national title to UNL (in tennis). Her brother was Roscoe Pound, who helped to revitalize the American legal system while dean at Harvard. Roscoe received degrees at UNL, where he started his studies at the age of ten. Cather Hall is named for Willa Cather, who began her studies hoping to become a doctor. She instead found her passion for writing with the guidance of Gere (who encouraged her to become editor for the school paper). Canfield is named for James Canfield, beloved Chancellor of the university in the 1880’s, who helped to increase enrollment and heighten public opinion of the university. Canfield also expanded the scope of the University’s academia to fine arts and liberal arts beyond that of the typical A&M studies.
Other UNL notables depicted in the field include J.D. recipient General John J. Pershing, who taught at UNL while receiving his degree, before going on to capture Pancho Villa in Mexico and to command forces in WWI. Also, Charles Bessey was professor of botany at the university and later Dean and Chancellor.
The history of the university is a proud one that perpetuates academia and diversity. UNL was originally open to all – including women and minorities. UNL’s first African American athlete, George Flippin, was supported by his teammates and not kicked off the team when Missouri refused to play UNL. The following year, Missouri agreed to play Nebraska despite UNL having an African American on its team, as long as they played on neutral turf.
Scholars were shown the video to instill a sense of pride in their University and to illustrate that hard work has paid off in the past in scholarly pursuits. Their own university dreams will be made reality with help and guidance from the McNair Summer Research Experience.