Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

MSRE 2013: You Get What You Give

May 15, 2013

by Maggie Gossard

Heading into MSRE 2013, scholars are bound to be feeling many conflicting emotions: excitement, fear, passion, dread, etc. This is normal and okay! Embarking on any new experience can be both scary and thrilling at the same time. Coming from someone who went through MSRE just last summer, I remember feeling all of these same emotions. However, looking back now, here is the best piece of advice that I feel I can give: Scholars get out of this experience what they put in. Here’s why….

  • You’re in McNair because you want to attend graduate school. Advanced study generally requires a good amount of research. If you truly give 100% to your project and this experience, you’ll have a good sense of whether you want to devote yourself to research by the end of the summer. Doing things half-heartedly will not give you a true picture of what life as a graduate student would be like. It is important that, as scholars, you’re giving yourselves the opportunity to make the most informed decision possible about going to graduate school.
  • Like many other scholars, you may choose to continue working on your McNair project during the fall semester through UCARE. And if you decide to do a senior thesis, putting together a good quality, solid McNair manuscript during summer research can make life so much easier. While you may choose to collect some additional data or run some additional analyses for your thesis, much of the heavy lifting of actually writing it up (literature review/introduction, methods, and parts of the discussion) will have already been done. You’ll just need to go in and add/edit the new information.
  • A big part of academia is building relationships. Giving your all to your project during MSRE can get you off on the right foot with building a relationship with advisors and mentors. Working hard, communicating effectively, and being an active learner will speak volumes to faculty mentors about the your potential as a graduate student (which will come in very handy when they are writing your letters of recommendation!). Remember, it’s crucial that MSRE is your opportunity to show yourself as a future scholar.

So the moral of the story is: put in your best effort and it will pay off tenfold. The work is worth it, because you get what you give.

Ronald McNair: Eyes on the Stars

February 15, 2013

“Carl McNair tells the story of his brother Ronald, an African American kid in the 1950s who set his sights on the stars.” -StoryCorps

Home for the Holidays

December 18, 2012

Scholarly work and research teaches you to think differently, and you may find that you approach even daily tasks differently. Because of the transformation you experience as scholar changes you, the familial relationships you’ve established over the past 20 years may have changed, too.

The relationships you have with your family and friends don’t need to be strained, though. When you are at home, think about ways that you can show your family that you are still you:

  • If there are activities you used to do with a parent or sibling, make sure to schedule a time to do those activities, like shopping or playing soccer.
  • Talk about your work in layman’s terms, but don’t speak down to the person you are talking to. Avoid jargon, which can make it look like you are trying to talk over others’ heads.
  • Be sure to help where you can. While you are tired from studying hard, lend a hand in preparing food, cleaning up, and shoveling snow.

Read more about students like yourself or about academics who head home for the holidays.

Studying during Finals Week

December 4, 2012

All semester, you’ve been going to class, diligently taking notes, and participating in class discussion. You’ve done your best to set yourself up for doing well in the class and building knowledge for future semesters. But did you know that how you study and make connections between material can help you succeed on your finals?

  1. Make a plan and stick to it. Be realistic about the amount of time you have left in the semester to study. Rather than trying to review all of your notes and the class material in the final 48 hours before an exam, set smaller, easy to achieve goals along the way that will lead to mastery.
  2. Build connections between different topics and different units. Students who can organize their knowledge do a better job of retaining information and understanding how that information fits together. “We tend to build associations between events that occur in temporal contiguity (for example, a causal relationship between flipping the switch and a light turning on), between ideas that share meaning (for example, a conceptual relationship between fairness and equality), and between objects that have perceptual similarities (for example, a category-member relationship between a ball and a globe). As these associations build up over time, larger and more complex structures emerge that reflect how entire bodies of knowledge are organized in a person’s mind,” according to How Learning Works. Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. If you want to build an enduring connection between sets of knowledge, you need time.
  3. Avoid cramming and get plenty of sleep. Studies show that cramming can actually be detrimental. Researchers at UCLA found that “sacrificing sleep for extra study time, whether it’s cramming for a test or plowing through a pile of homework, is actually counterproductive. Regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time in order to study more than usual, he or she is likely to have more academic problems, not less, on the following day.” Be sure to give yourself the advantage of a good night’s sleep!
  4. Eat healthy! Food is your body’s fuel, so get at least three square meals a day. Reduce coffee consumption to help you avoid the jitters, and try to avoid energy drinks and caffeine pills. They may help you remain awake, but artificial alertness won’t help you retain information.

Remember: you’ve been a good student all semester, so you won’t have to spend your time memorizing everything. Take care of yourself and work on reviewing what you’ve learned, building connections across the course and throughout your discipline. You’ll do fine!

Writing a Senior Thesis

November 5, 2012

by Karise Carrillo and Alyssa Lundahl

What is a Senior Thesis?

A senior thesis is an undergraduate project, which may take the form of a paper, presentation, or creative performance (depending on your discipline). A senior thesis is modeled after the master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation. The goal is to demonstrate an undergraduate’s ability to independently and creatively think about a topic usually requiring research.

Why Write a Thesis?

  • Fulfills requirements for the Honor’s Program
  • Looks terrific on a Curriculum Vitae
  • May allow you to graduate with distinction
  • Helps you gain additional experience with research writing
  • Helps you decide if you would like to continue with an academic career – graduate school consists of writing many papers!

How to Write on Time

Theses require a lot of work and have multiple steps. Be mindful of the following when crafting your thesis:

  • Enroll in your department’s senior thesis class (an independent study).
  • Determine deadlines for submission – various colleges, departments, and the Honors Program may have separate due dates.
  • Choose faculty advisors who will help you and have time for you.
  • Plan your defense early – consider your own and your advisors’ schedules in advance. You’ll need to schedule plenty of time for revisions.
  • Submit early to allow time to re-submit documents that may get lost or corrupted in transit.
  • Fill out appropriate graduation forms (regardless of whether or not you are in the Honors Program).
  • If working on a faculty member’s project, ask EARLY in the writing process about whether you can submit part of their project as a senior thesis. You don’t want to hear “NO” at your defense!

 Thesis Writing Tips

  • Consider using or expanding upon your McNair or UCARE research or choose a topic that is manageable for an undergraduate project.
  • In Neihardt, there are manuscripts of past senior honors theses to peruse.
  • Use the appropriate manuscript style for your discipline (e.g., APA, ASA, MLA, Chicago). Unless this is a creative arts project, use the structure from your discipline. This isn’t a free write!
  • Know the appropriate paper length for your discipline and stay within that range.
  • Clear writing = clear thinking. In the words of Dr. Richard Lombardo, keep your readers in mind when writing. Don’t simply try to sound smart. Your goal is to educate others on a topic with which you are most familiar.
  • Have many people read your thesis for revisions and content (e.g., faculty mentors, graduate student mentors, McNair staff, friends and family – this helps to ensure laypersons can read it).
  • Don’t be downcast if you need revisions after your defense; this only improves your paper!

Note: Be sure to check with the requirements of your department to ensure that these guidelines apply to your specific program of study.

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.

Public Speaking 101

July 17, 2012

The culmination of MSRE is quickly approaching: only two and a half weeks remain before the McNair scholars present their research at the University of California-Berkeley. In the following weeks, the scholars will be hard at work practicing their oral presentations. But how can one quell those public speaking jitters? Below are some tips and tricks to help conquer public speaking fears and give a successful and confident oral presentation. 

Visualize success. In the upcoming weeks, engage in visualization exercises. Imagine yourself walking confidently to the podium, speaking with a loud, clear, and assured voice, and finishing with a satisfied applause. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful!

Come prepared. The best way to overcome speaking anxiety is to know your material. Though it may feel overwhelming knowing you’ll need to stand in front of other scholars and speak about your research for 12 minutes, you can feel assured that you know your research better than anyone else! Of course, it will still be necessary to plan and organize your speech so it flows, is easy to understand, and is interesting to your audience. The more familiar and comfortable you are with your material, the less anxiety you’ll have. Practice and revise until you can present with ease.

Conduct a few test-runs. Practice in front of small (and warm) audiences such as family, friends, or co-workers. The more times you practice in front of small audiences, the more comfortable you’ll become.Image

Be positive. Think positive thoughts and don’t automatically assume that everyone is judging you. Rather, assume that your audience is interested and likes what you’re telling them.

Dress for success. Dress professionally and comfortably. You’ll want to wear something that does not require any maintenance. For example, you don’t want your shirt to be so short that if you lift your arms to point to a figure on your PowerPoint, your stomach shows. You also don’t want your shirt too revealing or your skirt so short that the audience doesn’t take you seriously. Avoid colors and materials that will easily show perspiration such as gray or light blue. Simple black and white will be the least likely to show signs of perspiration. Wear manageable heels, if applicable, and avoid distracting or noisy jewelry. Overall, you want your audience to be captivated by your presentation, not your outfit.

Know the audience. If possible, greet the audience before it’s time to give your speech. Shake hands with audience members in the front row and make small talk. It’s much easier to speak to a group of people you know (even if you have only known them for a few minutes!) rather than a bunch of strangers. It will also be easier to make eye contact and connect with your audience members if you’re (even slightly) familiar with them.

No need to apologize. Never feel as though you need to apologize for feeling nervous. Everyone gets a little nervous before speaking in front of others. However, most of the time, your nervousness is not even apparent to the audience. If you don’t mention how you’re feeling, no one will even know, so don’t call attention to your anxiety. And if you make a mistake, don’t fret! Your audience has no idea what you have planned for them, so if you accidentally omit a word or even a sentence, they will have no idea. Just gather your thoughts and continue on with your speech!

Good luck!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.