First-year McNair Scholars Nayelie Valenzuela, a senior in public relations, and Julian Neely, a junior in journalism and mass communication, presented their undergraduate research at the Iowa State University McNair Scholars Student Research Symposium April 17.
Neely and Valenzuela are part of the 2017 Iowa State University cohort of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, a national program that prepares undergraduates for entry to graduate school through areas of research, graduate school preparation and personal experiences. The program’s primary goal is increasing Ph.D. degrees earned by low-income, first-generation and underrepresented undergraduates.
Valenzuela presented “Higher Education Recruitment on Social Media: Examining Institutional Discourse.” Neely presented “#BlackBoyJoy: Visual Framing on Twitter,” which focuses on how the hashtag has assisted with the restructuring of the imagery of black men in society.
They both worked on a group presentation about the recruitment tactics and methods of retention for graduate students of color in the College of Engineering.
“It’s a great program that helps students prepare for the next step in their higher education,” Neely said.
Throughout the two-year program, scholars take four McNair courses, engage in academic research, prepare for graduate school and work with faculty and graduate student mentors. In the process, they learn how to research and present their findings and have access to resources for networking and navigating the graduate school application process.
“I’m very grateful to have this experience, it’s taught me so much,” Valenzuela said. “I actually start grasping the concepts more easily now. I’m hoping that it’ll be a very good research presentation for me in the end.”
Each year in the spring, Iowa State’s McNair program hosts a symposium that both first and second-year scholars attend, where they present posters explaining the research they have done for the program. First-year scholars show the progress they have made over the year, while second-year scholars show their final work. Faculty have the opportunity to hear poster presentations and ask questions about the research. After that, awards are given to students. Second-year scholars attend a McNair national conference.
Greenlee Assistant Professor Jan Lauren Boyles serves as the students McNair faculty mentor.
“It’s been a joy to collaborate with Julian and Nayelie, and watch their passion for research grow,” Boyles said.
The first McNair grant was awarded to Iowa State University in 1995, and Iowa State’s McNair program has served over 400 students.