A group of McNair Scholars pursued a wide range of funded research this past summer and had the opportunity to present their work at a national conference.
The McNair Scholars program supports first-generation, limited income and underrepresented undergraduate students who plan to earn their graduate degrees.
The program also provides scholars with a $2,800 stipend along with its research opportunities.
The four scholars who completed research were:
- Heather Dickrell: “Linking Family Dynamics to Foster College Aged Youth Mental Health and Well-being.” Dickrell is a human development and family studies senior from Marengo.
- Jordan Kunze: “Impact on Hair of Common Components of Shampoo.” Kunze is an applied science senior from Merrill.
- Maddie Olson: “Long-Term Effect of Sports-Related Concussions on Balance.” Olson is a third-year psychology student from Strum.
- Michael Wilson: “The Interplay of Resilience, Grit and Self Efficacy on Academic Performance During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Wilson is a psychology senior from Menomonie.
They were supported by McNair staff and faculty mentors. Kristen Leer, associate adviser with Trio Student Support Services, worked closely with the students, serving as a “writing specialist, helping demystify what research looks like, helping them develop a research paper and personal statements and to design PowerPoint presentations of their research,” she said.
Dickrell, Olson and Wilson presented at the MKN Heartland McNair Research Conference, Sept. 23-25, in Kansas City, Mo.
Dickrell and her mentor, Associate Professor Candice Maier, researched former foster youth's experiences regarding their mental health, well-being, family dynamics and family relationships. Their study participants are attending or have attended a form of post-secondary education, ranging from technical school to graduate school.
“We found our sample, overall, reported mild mental health symptoms, complicated family dynamics and an array of emotions and feelings towards their foster families,” Dickrell said.
For Olson’s research, she recruited UW-Stout students who had a history of concussions, along with a control group with no history of concussions. She obtained 175 participants, with the help of Professor Desiree Budd.
“The results suggested there was a significant negative correlation between concussions and balance,” Olson said.
Support to continue research and the pursuit of higher education
UW-Stout’s McNair program, which began in 2009, supports about 30 students each year. The program received a new five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education for $261,888 annually, totaling $1.31 million. The grant will allow the program to continue offering opportunities to scholars to lessen the equity gap in graduate education and to provide support as they pursue their future careers.
Olson feels the McNair staff has helped her grow tremendously.
“Without them, I would have not even known about graduate school, let alone be pursuing it now. I am forever grateful for their hard work and dedication to my academic journey,” she said.
Dickrell thinks the program was a vital support system throughout her research process, providing resources to ensure her success.
“The McNair staff and our mentors guided us throughout the overwhelming process by taking it step by step. We were able to go into the office to get support from their writing specialist and other staff with writing edits and research guidance. With their help, I was able to complete my research by the end of the summer with full confidence and learned a lot,” Dickrell said.
In the past decade, 97% of the university's McNair scholars have completed a research or scholarly activity, and 63% have gone on to graduate school immediately after earning their bachelor’s degree.
Students may fill out a simple form to see if they are eligible to be a McNair Scholar and apply to join the program.