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The Challenger

McNair Scholars Program
University of Missouri-Columbia

September 2007

Writing a Personal Statement
One of the first things the McNair Scholars Program has students concentrate on is their personal statement for graduate school. The personal statement, also called a graduate school essay, a statement of interest, or a statement of goals, is the student's chance to describe his or her ambitions and aspirations in his or her own words. Everything else in the graduate school application is from an outside perspective including the letters of recommendations, transcripts, and test scores. The personal statement gives the student a chance to explain or highlight specific areas that are important to graduate school. It allows a student to show a deeper, personal commitment to the field. A McNair Scholar works on his personal statement
2006- 2007 McNair Scholar Stanley Ikpe explains a point on his personal statement to his mentor, Dr. Gregory Triplett, Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The majority of the personal statement is a chance to describe experiences, past research, professional goals, and motivation for pursuing this interest. These all illustrate influences and are an opportunity to demonstrate the desire and determination to pursue a higher degree. The essay is also an opportunity to explain any gaps or discrepancies in one's academic record. Often times this explanations shows growth as a student and a commitment to be successful in your post-baccalaureate career.

Graduate admissions committee review hundreds of applications so it is important to have a short, one to two page personal statement with a hook to catch their attention.A hook illustrates one's personal connection to an intended path; an anecdote or unique perspective of one's academic career. The introduction is the chance to make the reader want to read the rest of the essay. Keep in mind, this is not a report or a term paper. Instead, the personal statement is not only a chance to get into a graduate school that of interest but also to be awarded fellowships and other forms of financial aid at that institution. The introduction should be brief and not off-the-wall, since it may present a different picture than intended.

The goal is to come across as a mature student who has thoroughly thought out the personal statement. Take time in developing it. There will be multiple statements, each one catering to each specific institution. Emphasize the potential to contribute to the field. Do not lie or pander to the graduate admissions committee. They will see through this and it will only hurt one's chances. Additionally, make sure to follow the directions addressed in the questions posed, staying within any restrictions in length for the essay

Finally, the conclusion is an opportunity to reaffirm what you have written and to tie everything together. However, don't restate and summarize what is already written. Instead, use it as a chance to narrow the focus and relate it all back to your central idea. Leave the graduate admissions committee with a positive view. End

[parts adapted from and Writing a Personal Statement by Howard Adams]

McNair Scholars: Where Are They Now?

A scholar visits the capitol.


Since graduating in 2005, Scott Winton, 2004-2005 McNair Scholar, ventured to Montevideo, Uruguay and worked as a Student Programs Intern at the U.S. Embassy-Montevideo in the Regional Security's Office for a year. He then worked in St. Louis as a customs broker as he prepared his applications to graduate school. In June 2007, he was awarded the prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, granting him a full ride (including tuition, books, room and board, food stipend and a State Department Mentor) to pursue a master's degree at any U.S. institution. Currently he is working on that M.S. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with an ultimate goal of obtaining his doctoral degree on that same area. After that, he plans on pursuing a career in the state department.

  Melanie Baxter (formerly Evans), 2004-2005 McNair Scholar, is currently pursuing her Master's of Science in Genetic Counseling at the Johns Hopkins/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program. She was awarded a $25,000 stipend from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. After obtaining her degree, she and her husband plan to return home to Missouri where Melanie hopes to take on a genetic counseling position that incorporates both a clinical and research role.  

While attending the Council for Opportunity in Education Annual Meeting, McNair Scholars Program Director, Vicki Curby and Assistant Director, NaTashua Davis were able to meet up with several former scholars who live in the Chicago Area.

These past scholars included: Anthony Proctor, 1990-1991 McNair Scholar, Kristopher Brown, 2000-2001 McNair Scholar, Tracy Fehrenbach, 1996-1997 McNair Scholar and LaDonna Sanders, a member of the first cohort of scholars at MU in 1989-1990.

Not only did the scholars enjoy seeing Dr. Curby before she retires, they also enjoyed the opportunity to become acquainted with other past MU McNair Scholars in the area.


Staff Members and a former scholar

McNair Assistant Director NaTashua Davis, 1989-1990 McNair Scholar LaDonna Sanders, and McNair Director, Vicki Curby pose for a picture in Chicago.End

Summer Researchers Prepare to Present in Kansas City

A Scholar prepares her presentation

McNair Scholar, Tamela Smith, prepares her presentation for the Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska McNair Heartland Research Conference September 21-23, 2007.


Upcoming McNair Workshops
Statement of Purpose and Developing a Curriculum Vitae (Sept 27): Breaking into small groups based on their academic interest, scholars will work with an expert in their field to assist in fine tuning their statement of purpose for graduate school. This feedback, combined with their own mentor's advice, will assist them in their first step in graduate school admissions. They will also learn the fundamentals of a curriculum vitae in order to begin developing their own
Art of Networking and Principles of Etiquette (Oct 11): Scholars will learn how to effectively network to gain professional contacts as they prepare for their upcoming conference travels. This seminar will also delve into the proper etiquette at a professional luncheon or reception.
Senior Retreat (Oct 13): An in-depth, hands on workshop for senior McNair Scholars as they work on finalizing their graduate school applications. This retreat will assist with troubleshooting as scholars discover issues with their actual graduate school applications.
Ronald E. McNair Day (Oct 21): This workshop on the birthday of Ronald McNair serves as a recruiting event to the McNair Scholars Program. Here scholars, potential scholars and the community at large will celebrate his life and hear from former scholars as they reflect on the program. Current scholars will learn how to get more out of the program. all students will get a stronger grasp of the mission and goals of the McNair Scholars Program. Join us in Memorial Union's Faculty & Alumni Lounge (S304) at 4:00 P.M.
Financing Graduate School (Oct 25): This workshop will connect scholars with multiple sources of aid for their graduate school careers. Internal and external funding sources will be discussed as well as federal financial aid. Additionally, scholars will learn the fundamentals of budgeting as a graduate student and how to compare different financial aid packages.

Three McNair Scholars recently completed the research component of their internship over the summer of 2007. This month they will present their research at the 11th Annual Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska McNair Heartland Research Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

The conference will also allow each scholar to explore opportunities for graduate study, attend the conference graduate fair and network with other McNair Scholars. In addition, by participating, they become eligible for a $500 scholarship that the conference provides for graduate education.

Working with Dr. Lisa Sattenspiel, McNair Scholar Tamela Smith examined the impact of the measles and influenza epidemic on 1916 and 1919 respectively, and the interaction between them. Such understanding is growing in necessity as diseases mutate and the chances of a global pandemic expand with the increase in speedy international travel. By reviewing the archives, records and data, Tamela examined whether or not an experience with the measles epidemic affected the body's response to the later exposure of the flu.

McNair Scholar David Aguayo investigated the educational and training resources for newly arrived immigrants. This work with Dr. Lisa Flores, allowed David to tap into a dataset of rural Missouri Latino immigrants. Through focus groups he examined the social networks and perspectives that immigrants used in obtaining an education. These results demonstrated the newcomers' needs and will aid in services such as English as a Second Language (ESL).

Valeska Araujo examined the investments in higher education and its correlation with economic growth rates for states in her summer McNair research with Dr. Bradley Curs. Specifically she estimated the relative return of public investment in education on state economic growth over time. Her results will aid allocation of higher education funding.End

Vicki Curby, Director
NaTashua Davis, Assistant Director
Jeremy Bloss, Advisor
Darlene Dixon, Program Assistant

For additional information
McNair Scholars Program
536 Clark Hall

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