Archive for the ‘Accomplishments’ category

Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety

June 25, 2018

by Hellina Gesese, UNL McNair Graduate Assistant

By this point in MSRE, you have planned, prepped, and worked hard to create an effective and engaging presentation; all that is left now is the delivery. When thinking of presenting, most of us get excited to share our work with others but many of us also get nervous at the thought of public speaking. Approximately 75% of people experience some symptoms of public speaking anxiety, so you are not alone in this fear.

Pubic speaking anxiety looks different in different people. Some people feel anxious while preparing for their presentation, often imagining worst case scenarios, fixating on thoughts of failure, and end up dreading the event. Others experience physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, shakiness, dry mouth, and sweating. This is all to say, the anxiety you feel may be expressed in different ways and that is completely okay. Better yet, there are just as many ways to manage and reduce your public speaking anxiety! Here are a few strategies to try out.

Think Positive

Sometimes we are our worst enemy, especially when it comes to evaluating ourselves in areas that we feel we do not excel. Anxiety often leads us to evaluate our success according to our fears instead of our abilities. To reduce the impact of our fears, we need to challenge our negative thoughts or self-critical statements by intentionally engaging in positive self-talk and constructive thoughts. Essentially, you need to become your own best friend. Say and do for yourself what you would say to a friend or family member who is feeling the way you are.

Rehearse and Visualize

Part of what makes us nervous about public speaking is all the unknowns. Where should I stand? What will I do if my laptop stops working? What if no one laughs at my jokes? Not knowing what to expect can amp up our nerves and make us feel unprepared. The best way to work through possible obstacles is to be prepared, to know as much about the process as will make you feel good about presenting. So, gather up your friends to get feedback on your presentation, talk to yourself in the mirror, line up the chairs in a classroom to create an ‘audience’ and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Once you feel well-prepared, trust in your abilities and your preparation.

If you still find yourself feeling lost or nervous, run through the steps in your head. Visualize yourself giving your presentation. Visualize a confident, well-prepared, and wildly successful speech. If negative scenarios intrude, visualize the problem and how you would solve it and move on to still give a great presentation.

Ground Yourself

One common effect of nerves is feeling as if time is speeding up or slowing down right before the presentation. Feeling anxious often causes us to focus inward and lose sight of our audience. In fact, many times you may power through a speech or presentation and not have a clear memory of it. Other times, you may feel so focused on what you are thinking and feel like you cannot remember what you practiced. Grounding can help bring back the focus to the present moment.

At the start of your presentation, take a moment to notice the physical sensations in your body: your heart rate, breathing, posture, etc. Acknowledge how your body is feeling and take a few deep breaths. When you are ready, shift your attention outward and notice your surroundings. Look around you and notice details near and far. Take a good look at the audience, those close to you and far, get a good feel for the environment. Find a physical touchstone (e.g., the podium, your blazer, etc.) to ground yourself whenever you make a mistake or need to re-group. Take another deep breath and own the space.

Strike a Power Pose

This is hands down my favorite quick tip to feel good and lighten up before a presentation. Strike a power pose: feet apart, hands on hips, chest out (you Grey’s Anatomy fans will know what I am talking about). Basically, do your best Superhero pose, take deep breaths, and have fun.

There are many other techniques to help reduce public speaking anxiety. Be sure to try out a few to find what works best for you. For more ideas and strategies on how to manage public speaking anxiety visit:


McNair Alumni Spotlight: Adrienne Ricker

February 21, 2018
Adrienne Ricker (McNair Scholars 2013-2016) earned a bachelor’s degree in geology and biological sciences in May 2016. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Earth & Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She was awarded the prestigious Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship. Adrienne describes how the McNair Scholars Program helped her develop a positive working relationship with her research mentor and provided her with the support and tools necessary to navigate the graduate application process.

The McNair Scholars Program presented the opportunity to engage in research at an early point in my undergraduate career. Through McNair, I developed a one-on-one relationship with a faculty advisor in order to design and complete a research project. He provided mentoring and instruction on how to develop a research project and communicate with others effectively. That experience helped greatly in my first year as a graduate student, where active engagement in research is expected of students in my program.

As a low-income first-generation student, McNair helped me navigate the graduate application process–something I would have been lost in otherwise. I am now in the second year of my PhD and more certain than ever that the McNair program prepared me for this experience! Additionally, my McNair faculty mentor was imperative in my graduate school search and application process. He helped me navigate the application process and prepared me for the demands of life as a graduate student.

My background experiences and participation in the McNair Scholars Program helped me receive the prestigious Eugene Cota-Robels Fellowship, which has given me the freedom to develop a thesis project I am truly passionate about. Otherwise, I would have probably taken on a project previously funded by my advisor’s existing grants. This freedom has been rewarding and a great opportunity to learn the full process of a developing a research project through to the end product.

Being involved in exciting research is one of the best parts of graduate school, but you shouldn’t let your research consume you. My advice to McNair Scholars would be to look for something outside of your research to be involved in—whether that is a campus organization or a volunteer experience—find something you enjoy that is relevant to your goals and gives you a break from the rigors of graduate school. Moreover, I’d also recommend you establish expectations for work/life balance with your advisor early on. If expectations are clear right away at the beginning, then it will help relieve concerns about whether you are filling those expectations or not!




McNair Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Norberg, Ph.D.

June 7, 2017

I grew up in a small, rural town in Nebraska. Few people, myself included, thought I was smart. Rather than taking physics and geometry classes during high school, I opted for remedial math, home economics, and making the high school yearbook. Through what seemed like luck, rather than intellect, I became the high school yearbook editor.

Becoming editor of the yearbook encouraged me to obtain a university degree. While at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I took a “Careers in Psychology” class that put me on the path to becoming an academic clinical psychologist. That class taught me that it would be a long and competitive path. So, I followed its advice. I maintained a high GPA,  volunteered, and obtained research experience. However, that research experience was in the field of perception, which while highly useful in teaching me about research methodology, it taught me little about conducting clinical research.

During the final year of my undergraduate degree, I was accepted into the McNair program. The McNair program linked me up with Dr. Debra Hope, an academic clinical psychologist. Under Dr. Hope’s supervision, I completed an Honors project that examined the role that clients’ expectations have on therapy outcomes. Conducting research in Dr. Hope’s lab allowed me to gain the exact type of clinical research experience I needed to be accepted into a doctoral program for clinical psychology. During graduate school, I led a team of students in developing an empirically-based instrument to measure clients’ expectations about treatment. This measure was published and has been translated into a handful of different languages by other researchers. Thus, the influence of the McNair Program and Dr. Hope did not end with my undergraduate degree.

Melissa Norberg conducting research into hoarding with Julia Irwin.Photo courtesy of Chris Stacey

I am now an Associate Professor and the Deputy Director of the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University. Macquarie University’s psychology department is ranked within the top 100 psychology departments in the world and the Centre for Emotional Health is one of the premier research centers on anxiety in the world.


Challenges for First Generation Students

June 30, 2016

McNair Scholars Reflect on their Experiences at UNL

by Jenn Andersen, McNair graduate assistant

Everyone knows starting college is hard. For the first generation college student, however, there are unique challenges that come with being the first in your family to attend college. Below are some first-hand experiences of current McNair Scholars and alumni who were first-generation college students at UNL.

What challenges did you face as a first-generation student? Were there challenges that you specifically remember being unique to your situation as a first-generation student?

Zully Perez Sierra (McNair Senior Scholar): “As a first-generation student, I had a slow and difficult start in college. For example, I retook a calculus course not knowing the different options of tutoring available to college students. For my first two years, I didn’t know of the job opportunities in my major which lead to unclear goals of obtaining a degree.”

Kassie Guenther (McNair Scholar 2013–2015): “Two specific memories come to mind. The first was after I’d been accepted to UNL and I sat down at the computer with my mom to fill out acceptance paperwork. I remember being asked what courses I wanted to enroll in, what residence hall I wanted to live in, which meal plan I wanted to purchase, and how I’d be paying the University. Although this was a fun and exciting time, it also resulted in my first real wave of shock and anxiety. I started to realize I didn’t know anyone who could share their experiences about what college was like or tell me which choices to make. I had no idea how I was going to pay for my tuition, room, and board, or books, and didn’t know where to begin in terms of choosing classes or a residence hall. My loved ones provided me with their warmth and support, but I struggled with finding individuals who had been through the process and could definitively tell me what college was going to be like. The second situation occurred as I sat in a large lecture hall during freshman year, learning about careers and opportunities available to psychology majors. For the first time, I learned that I’d need to pursue graduate work to obtain my dream career – being a psychologist. As naive as this sounds, I had no idea because nobody I knew had ever been through this process or knew anything about this major! Not only did I have few people to talk to about the rigors of being an undergraduate, I felt lost and alone in the idea of graduate school.”


Did you utilize office hours/academic advisors as an undergraduate? Why or why not?

Zully: “I utilized office hours frequently because I was used to asking instructors questions about the material in high school. I also would find myself struggling in courses in which my exam grades were lower than I had ever obtained. I wanted professors to know I cared about learning but needed help to understand the material.”

Kassie: “Every single semester I went to visit Celeste Spier and Tony Lazarowicz in the advising center to discuss my options. As annoyed as they might have been with my list of questions and frequent visits, I relied on them for academic advice and support. They understood my concerns, provided valuable information and ultimately guided me through much of my undergraduate career. I owe them both a huge thanks!”

Alicia Michelle Rogers (McNair Senior Scholar): “Professors are truly one of the best—often untapped—resources students have on campus. Their wealth of information, extending from the information they teach to professional development, to life experience, really enriches those students who choose to step into their office and initiate conversation and a relationship with them. Eventually, all students will have to ask their professors for professional recommendations, especially those planning to pursue graduate education. When relationships are built early and maintained with faculty, they get a better idea of who the student is, their abilities and passions, and are better able to convey those attributes in letters of recommendation.”


How did you become active in your lab/ get to know your McNair mentor? Did you feel comfortable using your mentor as a resource for academic advising and other types of advice after the McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE)?

Zully: “By meeting an upperclassman through an engineering organization, I learned about research opportunities at the university. Therefore, I asked my academic advisor about research opportunities in the department, and that same day my advisor introduced me to my current McNair mentor. I’ve asked my McNair mentor about the type of conferences to attend and present our research.”

Kassie: “I decided to simply be honest with my research lab and McNair mentor, for that was the only way I was going to succeed in the pursuit of graduate school. I set up countless meetings and asked real and honest questions. I specifically remember asking what graduate school was like, how they handled moving away from home, what the possibilities of being accepted were, and if they felt they had a work-life balance. These were answers I wanted and needed to know, and they were some of the only people who could provide me with that knowledge. Sometimes, looking back, I feel a sense of remorse in asking so many questions. Perhaps I was too burdensome, maybe I took up a lot of their valuable time, what if some of my questions seemed inappropriate or made me appear immature and unsure of myself? In the end, I am happy I asked those difficult questions and was proactive in my attainment of knowledge because it led to my successful admission to a graduate program.”

Michelle: “Honestly, all it took was an email and an in-person meeting with my McNair mentor to get me involved in the research I am now a part of. What I found most interesting was that he told me the main reason why he allowed me into his lab was my involvement in the McNair Scholars program. Besides myself, he has only ever allowed one other UNL undergraduate student to work in his lab (to my knowledge). Since the research deals with HIV and other human pathogens, it was important that he felt assured of my character and that I could handle the responsibility and risks of the research—being a McNair Scholar gave him that confidence. Now I’ve been in his lab for over two years and have built a positive working relationship with a well-connected professor who will help me in any way to reach my personal and professional goals. I felt comfortable utilizing my mentor as a resource for advising. What I think is important is that students take the initiative to meet with their mentors. Mentors are very busy individuals, saturated in meetings and responsibilities which often doesn’t leave them much time for advising. To counteract this, students need to be purposeful in their connections with their research mentors. This means initiating times to meet, developing a plan for the conversation they wish to have, and following up with their mentors after the meeting. Communication is the key to all relationships, and research mentors are no exception.”


How did you handle your MSRE project? Did you get results other than what you expected? How did you handle the results? Any particular frustrations that came up during MSRE, and how did you handle them?

Zully: “For the MSRE project, I followed the research outline/task list that I’d need to have signed by my mentor and give to McNair staff. The task list helped me to organize and keep track of every day to day tasks of the research.”

Kassie: “I worked on a team of helpful and inspiring graduate students who provided encouragement, feedback and the ability to learn and challenge myself. With their help and guidance, I felt few struggles throughout the process because I knew that I was doing my best, and they were helping me to produce good work. This is not to say that the experience was not challenging and effortful. I just knew to not be discouraged because I was surrounded by amazing supporters.”

Michelle: “I think I handled it fairly well. My biggest challenge was balancing time at the lab with MSRE deadlines and other responsibilities. What helped me was meeting with my mentor to come up with a reasonable deadline schedule by which to plan my weeks with. Having this schedule helped me to allocate my time appropriately throughout the summer, ensuring no area was neglected. Even if I did get behind in my research, communicating this with my mentor was key. It showed him that I was mindful of my lab work, while also demonstrating resourcefulness with my time as a student.”


What resources do/did you utilize as a first-generation student for support as an undergraduate student? Did you go on to participate in them as an advisor/mentor?

Zully: “I became involved in three engineering organizations. In two of the organizations, I held executive positions as volunteer chair and as treasurer. I’m also a William H. Thompson Scholar and I served as a mentor my sophomore year and as a tutor the last two years. I also joined a bible study. I used first-year experience and transition programs, study shop, OASIS, and resource centers. Overall all of the resources were very helpful for any class assignment or studying for exams.”

Kassie: “I relied heavily on my involvement in the William H. Thompson Scholars Learning Community. They took me under their wing when I arrived at college, provided me with a mentor and cohort, taught me valuable academic and professional skills, and helped to develop me as a leader as well as a person. As soon as I was able, I did my best to give back to the community by working as a peer mentor to other incoming students. The program was a large contributor to the success that I felt in college as well as the sense of belonging and community.”

Michelle: “Other than faculty mentors, I didn’t utilize any resources on campus—because I didn’t know about the resources available to me or where to look to find them. I also feel as though my faculty mentors filled the necessary gaps for me that other resources would have filled. However, I was involved in the First Husker program at UNL as a mentor for incoming first-generation college freshmen. It’s designed well to set the student up for success at UNL, answering questions for students, as well as their parents. One of the biggest things I found most helpful for students about the program was the workshop on finances. It went over everything students need to know about how to manage their money to finding financial aid. I didn’t use the Study Stop locations, but I always directed students to this for help in their classes (I’m a teaching assistant). They have tutors there to help students in a number of different classes, as well as free coffee. Who doesn’t like coffee?”


Utilize Your UNL Resources!

There are many resources on campus for first-generation students. It’s important to build a relationship with your academic advisor to help navigate through your undergraduate career, as well as discuss your long-term career goals and what resources might be available to help you reach those goals.

The First Husker Program brings first generation incoming freshmen to campus early to allow them to acclimate to college life before the craziness of move-in day begins. Throughout your time at UNL, you can access Academic Success Workshops, the Study Stop, and First Husker Peer Mentors. Find out more information about these and other transition programs at

Other key resources include:


And remember, as McNair Scholars, you don’t have to navigate your undergraduate or graduate careers alone! You’ll find support is always just an email or phone call away. Once a McNair Scholar, Always a McNair Scholar!

Research Journal Hosted on Digital Commmons

December 2, 2015

Did you know the UNL McNair Scholars Program publishes an online Research Journal? Comprised of nine original articles written by Scholars under the guidance of their faculty mentors, our Journal is hosted at:

Since Fall 2010, when our program began publishing the MSRJ, there have been over 6,000 full-text downloads. Between January 1 and November 30, 2015, there were 1,333 full-text downloads. The most frequently downloaded papers of the past 11 months were:

Cossel, T. (2010). Child Sexual Abuse Victims and their Families Receiving Services at a Child Advocacy Center: Mental Health and Support Needs (431 downloads)

Lundahl, A., West, T., Martin, E. K., Campbell, C., Vanderbeek, J., & Hansen, D. J. (2011). Relationship of Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors of Primary Caregivers with a History of Sexual Abuse and Perfectionism in their Sexually Abused Children (308 downloads)

Ali, M. B. (2011). Debt Relief or Debt Cycle: A Secondary Analysis of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in African Nations (258 downloads)

2015 McNair Recognition Reception Video

April 27, 2015

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln 2015 McNair Recognition Reception Video honoring the graduating Scholars as well as other current McNair Scholars is available for viewing at:


Highlights from the McNair Summer Research Experience: Reflections on Berkeley

October 22, 2012

Over the last couple of weeks, the UNL McNair Scholars have participated in a number of academic forums to share their research.  As one of many capstone events, the scholars presented their summer research projects to students, staff, and faculty at the UNL McNair Research Colloquium. One week later, they traveled to Berkeley, California to attend and present at the University of California-Berkeley National McNair Conference. For many of the scholars, this was their first time presenting at an academic conference and they had much to share about their experience.

To capture the scholars experience at Berkeley from beginning to end, the scholars were asked to complete a small survey. Some of their responses are listed below:

What were your thoughts heading to Berkeley?

Bridget Agnew shared, “I was nervous because I was not sure what to expect.”

Daniel Sotelo stated, “I was nervous. I was concerned about the quality of my research compared to the other scholars.”

Joseph Tran questioned, “How amazing will everyone else’s research be?”

What were some of your first impressions when you arrived at Berkeley?

Eric Harmes expressed, “There were more scholars then I had anticipated.”

Joseph Tran shared Eric sentiments as he stated, “I was amazed at the number of attendees, and I felt very small.”

How did the McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE) help to prepare you for Berkeley?

Maggie Gossard reported, “The MSRE really gave me the opportunity to take baby steps toward a big goal. I think that going through multiple drafts and getting feedback along the way really allowed me to be confident about the quality of my work.”

Moses Pacheco stated, “MSRE allowed me to collaborate with my research mentor and engage with my peers to better articulate my research to others. I was organized and ready to present.”

As you were presenting, how did you feel?

Ross Benes shared, “I felt nervous during the first few minutes, however as time went by, I really got into my presentation.”

Maggie Gossard stated, “I felt empowered knowing that I was contributing to a bigger academic discussion about a topic that I am passionate about.”

Besides relief, how did you feel after your Berkeley presentation?

Moses Pacheco said, “I felt like my MSRE had come full circle. The trip made me realize my hard work was worth every hour I put into completing my research project.”

Bridget Agnew expressed, “I felt confident and ready for other challenges.” 

What advice would you give to upcoming scholars as they prepare for Berkeley?

Daniel Sotelo advised, “Practice your presentation and make sure you really understand what you’re presenting. Most of all, have fun. You’re the expert, so make sure you act the part.”

Maggie Gossard encourages, “Take care in choosing your research topic because you will be living and breathing it for the entire summer. Try to pick something that excites and challenges you.”

What positive things did you learn about yourself after your experience at Berkeley?

Joseph Tran shared, “I learned that as long as I have determination and put in the time, I can accomplish amazing feats in academia.”

Bridget Agnew said, “I have learned to trust myself.”

One of the main objectives of the McNair Scholars Program is to provide students opportunities to engage in research and develop skills critical for academic success. Presenting at Berkley contributes to this goal; scholars grow both personally and professionally. Berkeley is often a transformative period for scholars because they can see the result of their hard work; the sharing of knowledge.  As we can see from the students’ responses, the scholars did indeed have a positive experience and grew from it.