McNair Program


5/23/2022- Cohort 22 Starts Summer Research Institute

Today marked the first day of our McNair Scholars Summer Research Institute! We are so excited to see what this group is going to achieve this summer. Let's go Cohort 22!

Cohort 22 Group Photo

5/19/2022- McNair Graduate Completes First Year of Master's Program

McNair Graduate Update! Emily Kolbe, Cohort 20, just completed her first year of her master's degree in Plant Breeding and Genetics at the University of Minnesota! She has been adapting well to graduate school. She has a few presentations coming up. One for the Minnesota Rose Society and another at the American Society for Horticultural Science Conference in August. She also has an article being published on rose black spot disease for the Minnesota Master Gardener Monthly's July issue. She has been heavily focused on her research with her mentor. They have started new experiments to advance her thesis. She has also been involved on campus by volunteering her time on a few different committees for different campus events and acting as the lab meeting coordinator for her lab group. She has been accepted to be a Teaching Assistant this upcoming fall.

Emily Kolbe Graduation

5/18/2022- McNair Graduate Receives M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy

McNair Graduate Update! Rachel Harris, Cohort 19, just graduated on May 7 from University of Wisconsin-Stout with her master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has accepted a job at Edges Wellness and will start May 17th. Congratulations Rachel!

Rachel Harris MA Grad

5/13/2022- Happy Summer Break!

Happy Summer Break McNair Scholars! For those of you who are spending your summer away from campus, we hope you enjoy the warm weather and well-deserved break.

Our junior Scholars are ramping up to start their Summer Research Institute. We can't wait to see them flourish in the program!

Happy Summer Break

5/9/2022- McNair Scholars Graduate with Bachelor's Degrees

Congratulations to our McNair Scholars Ashley McGee and Charlie Huschka on graduating with their bachelor's degrees this past Saturday! We are so incredibly proud of the both of you and can not wait to see what you accomplish in your respective graduate programs!

Ashley and Charlie

5/6/2022- McNair Scholars Receive Bachelor's Degree & Head on to Graduate School

Last night was our McNair End of Year Picnic! We had the opportunity to honor those Scholars who graduated this fall semester and those who will be graduating tomorrow.

Left: Crystal Malagon graduated in the fall with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. She will be attending the University of La Verne in La Verne, CA in their PsyD program.

Right: Ashley McGee will be graduating tomorrow with a bachelor's degree in Marketing Communications. She will be attending Minnesota State University, Mankato in the fall where she will be in their Communication Studies master's program.

Not pictured is Charlie Huschka who will be graduating tomorrow with a bachelor's in elementary education. He will be attending the University of Mary Hardin–Baylor in Belton, TX in the fall where he is enrolled in the MSEd-Sport Administration program.

2022 Graduates

4/11/2022- UWRF Takes Non-Traditional Path to Get Pharm D. Degree

A McNair Scholar’s path to getting a doctorate does not always follow a traditional path. A prime example of this is University of Wisconsin-River Falls 2012 graduate Cassandra Saunders, Pharm. D. Dr. Saunders's interest in pharmaceutical work did not come about until a few years after graduating from UW-River Falls. Her undergraduate degree was in pre-veterinary and bio-medical sciences. While in the McNair Program, she worked with Professor Joseph Gathman at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls to study the bat population's habits and how they varied depending on where they primarily lived. She was also able to do a second study with Dr. Matthew Allen at The Ohio State University to study canine limb lameness and the resulting gait patterns.

Upon graduating with her bachelor's degree, Dr. Saunders was unsure of what her next steps would be. After analyzing and working within a few different career fields, she realized that being a pharmacist was her life’s path. Graduate school was challenging but very rewarding. While Dr. Saunders was working toward her doctorate, she was also working full time. However, she kept her eyes on the prize and earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2021. Since graduating, Dr. Saunders has been working as a Pharmacist Manager at Thrifty Pharmacy in Forest Lake, Minn.

Cassandra Saunders

4/6/2022- UWRF Student Health Nurse Speaks About Graduate School Experience

We want to thank UWRF Student Health Nurse and McNair Department Champion Michelle Klechefski for coming to speak to our McNair Scholars today! She kindly shared her undergraduate and graduate school journey. As well as, how she uses her graduate degree in her current role at the university.

Michelle Klechefski

4/4/2022- McNair Alum's Love of Learning Propels Him Toward Docterate Degree

Many of our McNair alumni have a love of learning. No one embodies that love more than UW-River Falls 2010 graduate Jaime Thissen, Ph.D. It was evident even during his undergraduate years. During his Summer Research Institute in the McNair Program, he researched the development of environmental indicators for North America at the United National Environment Program Office in Washington, D.C. The time spent within the organization was so enjoyable that he continued doing consulting work for them after his McNair experience. Dr. Thissen says he owes this unique research experience to the McNair Program. "At the time, the program provided unique opportunities and funding to complete my research project with the UN and provided extra opportunities for presenting research," he said.

After graduating from UW-River Falls with a degree in environmental science and management, he began attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He would obtain his master's degree in technical systems management and his doctorate in agriculture and biological engineering. During his time at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Thissen served as a fellow and instructor within the university's highly ranked Agricultural and Biological Engineering Program. "I learned a great deal about navigating graduate school and juggling teaching, research, and coursework," says Dr. Thissen. When asked what advice he would give current McNair Scholars, he provides this nugget of wisdom; "Graduate school is not a measurement about how smart you are. It is more of an enrichment and depth-driven experience."

Since graduating with his doctorate in 2021, Dr. Thissen works as an assistant professor at the Center for Sustainability Studies at Bemidji State University. At the university, he works with faculty and students in economics, indigenous studies, environmental studies, geography, and geology in an integrated, transformative setting. Dr. Thissen now hopes to share his love of learning with his students and hopes his enthusiasm for pursuing greater knowledge will encourage his students to get advanced degrees.

Jaime Thissen

3/30/2022- UWRF Receives Funding from the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin

 Exciting news for the university!

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls will receive $260,215 in support from the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin this year to enhance its water-related academic programs.

Read more HERE.

3/24/2022- McNair Alum Conducts Important Research in Graduate School

The McNair Program puts a heavy focus on research. One McNair alum who has always been an ambitious researcher is 2018 UWRF graduate Tori Fleming. Fleming, who is currently earning her doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from the UW-Madison, was kind enough to sit down with us and tell us how her educational journey is going! If anyone has taken advantage of their time in graduate school, it is University of Wisconsin-River Falls 2019 graduate Tori Fleming.

In the three years that she has been in school, she has been a Hartley Lab research intern where much of her lab work related to the family outcome study, while her research focused on the aging in Down Syndrome (DS) study. So far, she has had her research in three publication and two under reviews, and she is not stopping there. As she continues to obtain her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, her research focuses on how lifestyle factors influence the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with DS. Currently, she focuses on the impact of sleep and physical activity on the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. Fleming has been ambitious in her research since she was in the McNair Program at UW-River Falls. Working alongside her mentor, Associate Professor Todd Wilkinson, Ph.D., Fleming did her undergraduate research on how parental involvement in Applied Behavior Analysis influenced behavior change in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, it was not the research that helped Fleming feel prepared for graduate school; it was the other curriculum of the McNair Program. According to Fleming, “Dr. Freeman and Dr. Howry helped me discover potential graduate schools, navigate grad school applications, and conduct and present research. We also had opportunities to travel to a variety of universities and do informational interviews with potential advisors.” Come summer 2022, Fleming will be completing her preliminary exam. Fleming is also preparing to submit an F31 to fund her Ph.D. research. Once she has earned her doctorate, she would like to work in a career where she can do research and share it with the community. Specifically, she would like to work at an Intellectual and Developmental Disability Research Center.

Tori Fleming Bio

3/21/2022- Former McNair Mentor Receives National Science Foundation Award

Exciting news for the UWRF Physics Department! Congrats to former McNair Mentor Professor Suruj Seunaine, Ph.D. for receiving a National Science Foundation award to support faculty and student research projects.

Read the article HERE.

3/14/2022- McNair Alum Pang Tao Moua Continues Educational Journey

We had the opportunity to catch up with McNair Alum Pang Tao Moua (Cohort 15) to see how her doctoral journey was going! Read our interview with her below.

Language is a vastly complicated concept that not only varies from continent to continent but sometimes state to state. However, it is to language that University of Wisconsin-River Falls 2017 graduate Pang Tao Moua has decided to dedicate her life’s work. Moua studied communication sciences and disorders while she was an undergraduate in the McNair Program at UW-River Falls. Former Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies Larry Solberg Ph.D., worked with Moua on researching four decades of bilingual Hmong women. Moua analyzed these women’s fundamental frequency and pitch sigma. Thanks to this time with Dr. Solberg, she was prepared to conduct research in graduate school and had developed an understanding of the dynamic between a mentor and a mentee.

After Moua graduated from UW-River Falls and started at the University of Utah, she was surprised and delighted to find that the university has a support network of McNair Scholars enrolled in a graduate program. “It was a graduate-level McNair Scholars group,” states Moua, “and it was incredibly helpful.” Moua thoroughly enjoyed the master’s portion of her graduate career. To her, it felt like a continuation of her undergraduate curriculum. At the University of Utah, her research interests centered on the assessment of bilingual language skills in tonal-speaking populations, particularly Hmong. As Moua started her doctorate program, she soon learned that this piece was more focused on writing than on research and data collecting. It quickly became apparent to Moua that writing about her research was not of great interest to her. However, this discovery has helped her decide what her career path will be. After she has completed her doctorate, Moua wants to either go into teaching, or corporate research.

Pang Tao Moua

3/9/2022- Research Panel at TRIO Day 2022

We want to thank Dr. Berghuis Brant and Jaidan Scheunemann (Cohort 21) for presenting about their experience with collegiate level research for students in the Upward Bound program during TRIO Day last week!

Research Talk 2022

3/8/2022- TRIO Day 2022

Last week's TRIO Day event was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who planned, spoke, and came to the event. A very special thanks to our TRIO program alumni speakers Jinci Lu, Josephine (Jo) Bignell, and Joshua Olayiwola!

TRIO Day 2022

3/1/2022- McNair Alum Earns Master's Degree

Friday is TRIO Day! Join Upward Bound, Student Support Services, and the McNair Program as we celebrate all things TRIO! Hear from TRIO program alumni as they share how TRIO has impacted them during their time at UW-River Falls and beyond.
This year McNair Alum Joshua Olayiwola (Cohort 15) will be presenting about his experience in the McNair program and how it helped him prepare for his time in graduate obtaining his master's degree in counseling from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.
Join us Friday in the Kinnickinnic River Theater in the University Center at noon or stream it online at

Joshua Olayiwola

2/24/2022- McNair Alum Earns Master's Degree

Congratulations to McNair Alum Nao Hang-Robertson (Cohort 18) on receiving her master's degree in Global Governance and Human Security from the University of Massachusetts-Boston!
Read more about Nao's journey to her graduate degree!

Many McNair Scholars at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls are the first in their family to go to college. However, for 2019 UW-River Falls graduate Nao Hang-Robertson, she was also one of the first people to be a part of the Global Governance and Human Security master’s program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Hang-Robertson seems to be fascinated with people experiencing significant firsts in their lives. During her undergraduate research for the McNair Program, she worked with Professor Claire McCarty, Ph.D., to study the Hmong population in the United States. The research focused on how Hmong refugees adapted to their new settings, applied immigration and refugee acts, and what inspired them. This investigation helped Hang-Robertson apply to and get into graduate school.
In 2021 she graduated with her master’s degree in Global Governance and Human Security. Hang-Robertson is currently pursuing career opportunities in her field, while working full-time and considering pursuing her PhD.

Nao Hang-Robertson

2/16/2022- McNair Mentor Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Congrats to Dr. David Zlesak, Professor of Horticulture and McNair Mentor on receiving the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for the Department of Horticultural Science, at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his Ph.D.! The award recipients are recognized and invited to speak at the annual Kermit Olson Memorial Lecture and David will be presenting tomorrow – February 16 at 3:30pm. All are invited to tune in via Zoom (or in person!) to hear David’s presentation, Fostering Connections – People, Plants and Markets:

Dr. David Zlesak

2/14/2022- McNair Scholars Attend Conference in New Orleans, LA

McNair Scholars Jalyssa and Carter (right and center), along with McNair Student Employee Trinity (left) are currently at the Southern Agricultural Economic Association's Annual Meeting for the Agribusiness Quiz Bowl Competition in New Orleans, LA! Best of luck to this amazing group of students!

SAEA Conference

2/8/2022- McNair Alum Earns Master's Degree & Graduate Certificate

Congratulations to McNair Alum Joshua Olayiwola (Cohort 15) who graduated with his Master of Art in Counseling in 2020 and obtained his Graduate Certificate in School Counseling in 2021!

If anyone was made for graduate school, it is University of Wisconsin-River Falls 2017 graduate Joshua Olayiwola. When Olayiwola recalls his time in graduate school, he talks about how amazing it was. “I feel I found my footing in grad school,” Olayiwola says. “Graduate school to me was a collaborative experience with both staff and peers. Don’t get me wrong; there were long nights where you were studying, but it always felt worth it.”

Olayiwola felt prepared for graduate school thanks to the McNair Program. In the McNair Program, he gained research experience with UW-River Falls Associate Professor Melanie Ayres, Ph.D. With Dr. Ayres, he focused on cultural and generational influences in parenting styles. Thanks to the time and work put into this research, Olayiwola felt better equipped than many of his graduate school classmates. Olayiwola’s research in graduate school helped him discover his career path.

Since his time at UW-River Falls, Olayiwola has been drawn to the humanistic approach of Carl Rogers. Olayiwola paired this with his desire to work with adolescents and fell in love with play therapy. In graduate school, his research focused on cultural considerations when using sand tray therapy with children.

Graduating with his master’s degree in 2020 and then a graduate certificate in school counseling in 2021, he plans to attend Hampton University to complete his doctorate in counseling. Olayiwola currently works as a School Counselor at Falcon Ridge Middle School in Apple Valley, Minn. While he works, he is also accruing the hours needed to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in Minnesota. In the distant future, he plans to open a private practice. To Olayiwola, having a private practice is more than showing others how hard he worked to get there. It is also a platform to show the African American youth that they can strive for more than their community may expect from them.

Joshua Olayiwola

2/3/2022- McNair Alum Earns Ph.D.

We want to congratulate McNair Alum Brent Arnoldussen, Ph.D. (Cohort 16) on receiving his doctoral degree in Horticultural Science from Washington State University!

When Brent Arnoldussen, Ph.D., started at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, he knew that he wanted to attend graduate school, and have an impact on the sustainability of fruit and vegetable production. However, he did not know that this graduate research would lead to a patent and start-up company.

Dr. Arnoldussen’s path as an agricultural researcher and extension specialist was greatly influenced by the McNair Program at UW-River Falls. Professors of Horticulture David Zlesak, Ph.D., and Dr. Brian Smith Ph.D were his mentors at UW-River Falls. The opportunity to study organic vegetable production and soil microbiology with Associate Professor Erin Silva, Ph.D and Professor Jean-Michel Ané, Ph.D at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, arose while he was working at University of Wisconsin-Spooner Agriculture Research Station. Dr. Arnoldussen attributes his time at Madison and Spooner with allowing him to have a first look at graduate level agriculture research and agriculture extension.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from UW-River Falls in 2017. Dr. Arnoldussen moved to Prosser, Wash., to start his doctoral program at Washington State University(WSU), conducting his research at the WSU Irrigated agriculture research and extension center. Although graduate school was a lot of work, Dr. Arnoldussen had professional development experiences and made meaningful connections. One of those connections happened while he completed his research on cold damage in tree fruits. Along with interdisciplinary engineers, Dr. Arnoldussen developed a new technology that reduces the amount of cold damage on fruit, a significant issue for tree fruit producers. This research led to a patent, which then turned into a company that currently serves the tree fruit growers in Washington State.

Once graduating From WSU with his doctoral degree in horticultural sciences in 2021, he made the cross-country trip to Ithaca, NY, to start his post-doctoral research in the School of Integrated Plant Sciences at Cornell University, Working on precision pollination systems to help apple growers to optimize fruit quality. Dr. Arnoldussen is proud of his work in his undergraduate and doctoral programs. Those accomplishments, he says, are due to the connections and experiences that the McNair Program afforded him.

Brent Arnoldussen, Ph.D.

1/31/2022- McNair Mentor Published

Congrats to UWRF Mathematics Professor and former McNair Mentor Alex Tupan, Ph.D. for having the highlighted January article in the American Mathematical Monthly! Less than 10% of articles submitted to the publication are accepted. Read the full story here:

Alex Tupan

1/27/2022- McNair Alum Receives Ph.D.

We are incredibly honored to be a part of our Scholars' journeys as they go on to do great things in their chosen career fields. A prime example of this is UWRF grad Trevor Tomesh, Ph.D.

Dr. Tomesh graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls knowing that he wanted to get his doctorate. However, his journey to earning his degree took a few unexpected turns and crossed continents.

After graduating from UW-River Falls in 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in physics, Dr. Tomesh packed his bags and moved to England to start his doctoral program at the University of Worcester. While Dr. Tomesh enjoyed the curriculum at his new school, he did experience culture shock. He also did not have the educational experience he hoped for, so he decided to transfer in 2013 to the University of Regina in Canada. Dr. Tomesh found that Canada had a similar culture to the United States. He also found a mentor that fit his personality and work style better. He graduated from the university with his doctorate in computer science in 2020.

Dr. Tomesh says he would not have gotten into graduate school without the McNair Program. The program introduced him to Colin Price, Ph.D., at the University of Worcester and paid for traveling to the United Kingdom to research with Dr. Price. As fate would have it, the research he conducted with Dr. Price helped him get accepted into the University of Regina.

After graduating from the University of Regina, he was offered a three-year contract with the university as a lecturer. After those three years are over, he is unsure where life will take him, but if it is anything like his educational journey, he will end up exactly where he belongs.

Dr. Trevor Tomesh

1/19/2022- McNair Mentors Have Research Published

January 18 was Dairy Day at the Capitol! Posters of ongoing research funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub were part of the event and were on display in the rotunda. Representative Shannon Zimmerman stopped by to view the display and met the UWRF researchers that were featured – former McNair mentors Dr. Sylvia Kehoe, Professor of Dairy Science and Dr. Albert Boaitey, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics.
Dairy Day

1/7/2022- McNair Mentors Have Research Published

We would like to congratulate two of our former McNair Mentors on having an article published in the December issue of the Journal of Animal Science! Mentors Brian Greco, Ph.D. and Kurt Vogel, Ph.D., along with Assistant Professor Arquimides Reyes, Ph.D. worked with a group of researchers within the UWRF animal welfare laboratory, along with collaborators from industry and other academic institutions. Two UWRF students were also co-authors, Karly Anderson (2019) and Emily (Pintens) Massie. The research focused on captive bolt euthanasia, a technique commonly used on swine, and was featured on a recent blog post on the American Society of Animal Science website:

12/27/2021- McNair Highlighted in UWRF Voice

We are honored to have a piece written about the McNair Program in the university newspaper, UWRF Voice! Check out the article:

Thank you to McNair Alumna, Crystal Malagon for her willingness to be interviewed for the piece!

12/23/2021- Happy Holidays McNair Community

From all us here in the McNair Program we hope that our students, families, and alumni have a wonderful holiday break!

Holiday Break 2021

12/22/2021- McNair Alumni Graduate with Advanced Degrees in 2021

During the past year many of our McNair alumni went on to get their graduate degrees. We want to congratulate them on their hard work!

Michaela Eden (Cohort '18) - Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University

Victoria Fleming (Cohort '18) - Master of Science in Human Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nao Hang (Cohort '18)- Master of Arts in Global Governance and Human Security from the University of Massachusetts-Boston

Shelby Manor (Cohort '17)- Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Taylor Soto (Cohort '17) - Master of Professional Studies from the University of Miami

Heather Snyder (Cohort '16) - Master of Science in Mathematics from the University of Iowa

Joshua Olayiwola (Cohort '15) - Graduate Certificate in School Counseling from the University of Minnesota-Moorhead

Katherine Tindell (Cohort '15) - Ph.D. in Sociology from Florida State University

Cassandra Saunders (Cohort '11) - Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Minnesota

Jaime Thissen (Cohort '10) - Master of Science in Technical Systems Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana

Congrats McNair Alumni 2

12/21/2021- McNair Alumni Graduate with Advanced Degrees in 2020

We want to congratulate our McNair alumi who received their advanced degrees in 2020!

Noah Rogers (Cohort '17) - Master of Arts in International Affairs from American University

Pang Moua (Cohort '15) - Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Utah

Joshua Olayiwola (Cohort '15) - Master in Arts in Counseling and Psychology from St. Mary's University

Bao Vang (Cohort '15) - Master of Arts in Autism Spectrum Disorders from the University of St. Thomas

Mao Lee (Cohort '13) - Master of Science in Educational Psychology from Northern Illinois University

Jelisia Dixon (Cohort '11) - Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from Capella University

Michael Woodward (Cohort '11 ) - Ph.D. in Counseling and School Psychology from Northern Arizona University

Mame Fatou Thiam (Cohort '10) - Master of Science in Survey Methodology from the University of Maryland

Trevor Tomesh (Cohort '10) - Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Regina

Jessica Crocker (Cohort '06) - Master of Social Work from Northwest Nazarene University

Heather Lunn (Cohort '05) - Master of Science in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of St. Thomas

Congrats McNair Alumni

12/20/2021- McNair Scholar Graduates with Bachelor's Degree

The McNair Office would like to congratulate McNair Scholar Crystal Malagon for graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology this weekend! We can't wait to see all the great things she accomplishes!

Crystal Malagon

12/8/2021- Scholars Present at URSCA Fall Gala

McNair Scholars Ara, Charlie, Crystal, and Jaidan had the opportunity to present the research they worked so hard on during the course of their Summer Research Institute at this year's URSCA (Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity) Fall Gala! Each Scholar also had the opportunity meet one on one with McNair Alumna Dr. Brandt.

We are incredibly proud of our Scholars and can't wait to see what they accomplish in graduate school!

URSCA Fall Gala 2021

12/7/2021- Dr. Emma Brandt Shares Graduate School Journey

Yesterday McNair alumna Emma Brandt, Ph.D., visited campus. She presented to a small group of students, faculty, and staff. She was also a key speaker at the URSCA Fall Gala. We enjoyed hearing about her graduate school journey and how the McNair Program helped her prepare for that academic path. Dr. Brandt has accomplished a lot since graduating from UWRF in 2013, and we can't wait to see what other amazing things she accomplishes!

Dr. Brandt Presentation

11/30/2021- McNair Alumna to Speak at UWRF

We are excited to be hosting McNair Alumna Emma Brandt, Ph.D.! She will be speaking to our current McNair Scholars on December 6th before presenting at this year's URSCA (Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity) Fall Gala!

Dr. Brandt earned her B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from UW-River Falls in 2013. She went on to get her Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She currently works as a Senior Scientist at Empirico Inc. in Madison, Wis.

Interested in attending? Dr. Brandt will be presenting about her graduate school experience on Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Rodli Hall Room 258. Snacks and beverages will be provided.

Emma Brandt PhD

11/24/2021- McNair Scholars Present at FIU Conference

Some of our McNair Scholars had the opportunity to attend the National McNair Conference at Florida International University last week! Seniors Charlie, Jaidan, Ara, and Crystal presented their research to conference attendees. Junior Dylan was able to see other McNair participants research and prepare for his summer research project.

All students had the opportunity to meet other McNair Scholars and learn more about graduate school.

FIU Conference 2021 (1)

11/1/2021- The McNair Program is Hiring

The McNair Office is hiring! We are searching for the perfect Office Assistance. Is that you? Then apply on Handshake:

Office Assistance

10/28/2021- Vision Board Creation Party is a Success

The Vision Board Creation Party hosted on Tuesday by Student Support Services and the McNair Program was a great time! Thank you to the staff who donated their craft supplies and old magazines. A BIG thank you to the students who showed up and used art to visualize their futures!

Vision Board Creation Party 2021

10/25/2021- McNair Hosts Vision Board Creation Party with Student Support Services

The McNair Program is excited to be hosting a Vision Board Creation event in partnership with Student Support Services tomorrow! Make sure to stop by, visualize your future, and learn more about campus programs that can help you achieve your goals!

Vision Board Party 2021

10/21/2021- McNair Mentor Wins Contest to Test New Horticulture Device

Assistant Horticulture Professor and current McNair Mentor Sonja Maki, entered (and won) a contest to be able to trial a new hand-held porometer – a photosynthesis-measuring device. The device helps users monitor plant water status and plant stress. Maki learned about the device at the horticulture conference that she and McNair Scholar Ara Smith attended in Denver over the summer.

Photo by Pat Deninger

Sonja Maki in greenhouse

10/18/2021- McNair Scholar Announcements Posted in McNair Office

Attention Current McNair Scholars! All information about graduate school visits, research funding, and other opportunities for our current Scholars will be posted in the McNair office on both the television slideshow and the whiteboard next to Mrs. Samson's office.

If you have any questions about these opportunities, please connect with Dr. Freeman.

10/11/2021- UWRF Plant & Science Professor Found Passion for Major While in McNair Program

Brandt Berghuis, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF). However, before earning his doctorate, Dr. Berghuis completed his undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University (NDSU) while competing on the university’s track team as a thrower.

Dr. Berghuis decided to get involved with the McNair Program at NDSU when he found out he could get research experience. Also, the high acceptance rate of NDSU McNair Scholars into graduate schools was appealing.

The topic of Dr. Berghuis’s research happened somewhat accidentally. There was a disease problem in his home garden. Dr. Berghuis brought in samples of the plant to his work and isolated them. This disease became the focus of his summer research project. After researching this disease, Dr. Berghuis decided to switch his major to crop and weed science-biotechnology and pursue a graduate degree in plant pathology.

Since starting the McNair Program Dr. Berghuis’s goal has been to teach college, and he has achieved that goal, now working full-time in the Plant and Earth Science department at UWRF teaching Plant & Seed ID, Integrated Pest Management, Plant Pathology, Weed Control, and Intro to Plant Science.

Dr. Berghuis’s words of wisdom for McNair Scholars are, "To make the most of every opportunity and follow your passion."

10/4/2021- UW-System Virtual Graduate School Fair

Calling all current McNair Scholars! Mark your calendars for UW-System Virtual Graduate School Fair! The Career Services Offices across the UW-System have teamed up to host a UW-System Virtual Graduate School Fair via Handshake on Thursday, November 4, 2021.

Follow the link to learn more and to register:

9/20/2021- McNair Alumna is Building a Record of Publications

Alumna Victoria ‘Tori’ Fleming (Cohort 18) is building a distinguished record of publications. Tori graduated from UW-River Falls in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is currently working toward her Ph.D. within the human development and family studies department in the School of Human Ecology at UW-Madison.

Before starting graduate school, Tori worked in the Hartley Lab as a research intern. The lab has two major studies: family outcomes in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and aging in individuals with Down Syndrome (DS). Much of Tori’s lab work related to the family outcome study, while her research focused on the aging in DS study.

Tori’s research interests include seeking ways to improve the well-being of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families. Specifically, she is interested in the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of aging adults with IDD. As for the family, Tori is interested in looking at the quality and bidirectionality of interactions between family members.

Below are her current publications:

Fleming, V., Piro-Gambetti, B., Patrick, A., Zammit, M., Alexander, A., Christian, B.T., Handen, B., Cohen., A., Klunk, W., Laymon, C., Okonkwo, O., Ances, B.M., Plante, D.T., & Hartley, S.L. (2021). Physical Activity and Cognitive and Imaging Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease in Down Syndrome. Neurobiology of Aging.*

Fleming, V. & Litzelman, K. (2021). Resource utilization among caregivers of aging adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities.*

Photo Credit: C+N Photography and University of Wisconsin–Madison

Victoria ‘Tori’ Fleming

9/17/2021- McNair Program Open House Turnout

We had a great turnout at our Open House yesterday! We enjoyed getting to meet UWRF students who have the drive and ambition to go to graduate school!

McNair Open House 21

9/13/2021- UWRF Chancellor is Former McNair Mentor

In July 2021, Maria Gallo, Ph.D., became the 20th chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Chancellor Gallo professional career working in academia is impressive. Starting out as an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota and working her way to becoming the first female president of Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA before starting at UW-River Falls. However, it was during her time at the University of Florida that Dr. Gallo had the opportunity to mentor a McNair Scholar through the university’s McNair Program. As a McNair Mentor, she provided an open learning environment and a dedicated example of a successful academic career.

Dr. Gallo certainly has the expertise and experience to help those looking to further their education in graduate school. Chancellor Gallo received her undergraduate degree in agronomy from Cornell University and both her master’s in crop science and doctorate in genetics from North Carolina State University.

Dr. Gallo says she is inspired by the UW-River Falls’ commitment to academic excellence, student success, and affordability. We are excited to have a Chancellor that understands the McNair Program and the role that mentors play in the success of our Scholars. 

Chancellor Maria Gallo

9/7/2021- McNair Program Open House

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program invites the UWRF community to attend their Open House in 216 Rodli Hall. Stop in to learn more about the program and how it might fit into your future!

McNair Open House 2021

8/24/2021- McNair Scholar Attends ASHS Conference

A few weeks ago McNair Scholar, Ara Smith, along with his mentor Dr. Sonja Maki, had the opportunity to attend the American Society for Horticulture Science Annual Conference in Denver, CO. It was an especially exciting trip for Ara as it was his first time traveling outside of the upper midwest!

Ara Smith Conference

8/18/2021- Moments from 2021 Summer Research Institute

We can't believe that our McNair Scholars are almost done with their Summer Research Institute! We are thankful for our faculty mentors who have worked side by side with our Scholars on their research. We are also incredibly proud of our Scholars for the hard work they have put into their research and tutoring.

Here are some of our favorite moments from this summer.

2021 Summer Institute Highlights

8/6/2021- MRI Grant Received

UWRF has received its first NSF-Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant award of $300,000! The MRI Program supports the acquisition of a multi-user research instrument to increase access to research. This funding will allow for the purchase of a scanning electron microscope. The project will involve training undergraduates in both classroom and research settings.

Grant Received

8/3/2021- McNair Program Office Update

Things are starting to look a little more normal around Rodli Hall, especially in the McNair office. All of our furniture is back, our computer stations are open back up, and we have snacks for our scholars! Stop by when you are on campus. We would love to see you!

McNair Office

7/26/2021- McNair Scholars visit Iowa State University

One of the perks of the McNair Program is that Scholars have the opportunity to tour college campuses and learn more about their graduate degree programs. If you have been following along you may have seen that four of our Scholars recently had the chance to tour Iowa State University. We are grateful to their McNair Program Director, Thelma Harding, for inviting us on to campus and for being a wonderful tour guide!

McNair Scholars at Iowa State

7/22/2021- A Week in the Life of a McNair Scholar

Ara here!

Today my McNair cohort and I visited Iowa State University and toured the campus with the Director of their McNair Program, Thelma Harding. Then the group split off so we could visit with faculty in the degree fields we are interested in.

Iowa State Visit

7/21/2021- A Week in the Life of a McNair Scholar

Ara Smith, McNair Scholar, speaking!

Today was eventful! Dr. Freeman, Dr. Howry, three other McNair Scholars, and I drove together to Iowa State University for a campus tour of their graduate school.

Iowa State University

7/20/2021- A Week in the Life of a McNair Scholar

Ara here! Today I worked alone in the greenhouse at Mann Valley Farm and continued to set up the trellis systems that Dr. Maki and I started yesterday. I also pruned the tomato plants as needed. I observed pests and did some research on white flies.

Ara Smith in Greenhouse

7/19/2021- A Week in the Life of a McNair Scholar

McNair Scholar Ara Smith is giving us an inside look at what it's like to be a Scholar undergoing their Summer Research Institute!

"Hello! I'm Ara, a Horticulture major. My research project is titled "High Tunnel, Field and Hydroponic Production of the 'Great White' Heirloom Tomatoes." Today I worked with my mentor Dr. Sonja Maki on starting the trellis systems and continue pruning as needed."

Ara Smith and Sonja Maki

7/9/2021- UW-River Falls Receives Capital Funds for New Building

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is grateful for the 2021-23 Wisconsin state budget that was recently signed into law by Governor Tony Evers. The university will have the benefit of $111 million in capital funds for the new Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech). This will be transformational for the campus and will allow UWRF to continue contributing to the growth of its thriving economic region. 

Learn more here:

Science and Technology Innovation Center

7/2/2021- Summer Research Opportunities

Calling ALL McNair Scholars! Below are a few summer research opportunities for you. Take a look!

Summer Research Opportunities

6/30/2021- Scholars and Their Mentors

Our faculty mentors are instrumental in helping our McNair Scholars with their summer research and ensuring they are prepared to present their findings. We caught up with Scholar Ashley McGee and her mentor, Professor Mitchell. They are working together on Ashley's research project on motherhood brand creation on Instagram.

Ashley McGee and Professor Amber Mitchell

6/28/2021- Scholars on Campus

Our McNair Scholars are hard at work on their summer research projects! We found Scholar Jaidan Scheunemann in the Chalmer Davee Library on campus last week working on her project "The Practices of Occupational Therapy: Evolution of Treatments.

Jaidan Scheunemann in Library

6/23/2021- McNair Scholar Testimonial Shoot

A special thank you to McNair Scholar Charlie Huschka for sharing his story for our new testimonial videos that we are filming! This summer, Charlie is currently conducting his research with Professor Bonko and Professor Wells-Mangold about social media literacy within college athletics.

Charlie Huschka Testimonial Filming

6/21/2021- McNair Scholar Testimonial Shoot

We want to thank McNair Scholar Rachel Harris for being a part of our new testimonial videos that we are shooting this summer! Rachel graduated last spring with her bachelor's in Social Psychology. She is currently studying within the Marriage and Family Therapy master's program at UW-Stout. We enjoyed having her back on campus!

Rachel Harris at video shoot

6/16/2021- McNair Scholar Advice

We received some more stellar advice from a past McNair Scholar! This wisdom is for current Scholars who are starting the research portion of the McNair Program.

McNair Scholar Advice 2

6/14/2021- Congrats to McNair Scholar Greg Peterson

We want to congratulate McNair Scholar and recent UWRF graduate Gregory Peterson on accepting a position at Winona Middle School! He will be teaching 6th grade Contemporary Literature and 7th grade English Langauge Arts this fall.

Greg Peterson Graduation

6/7/2021- McNair Scholar Advice

We recently asked past McNair Scholars to give a piece of advice to current Scholars who are starting the research portion of the McNair Program. We received some A+ advice, like this piece of wisdom!

McNair Scholar Advice

6/2/2021- New McNair Program Video

A behind the scenes shot of our new McNair Program video! A special thank you to the University Communications and Marketing Department and McNair Scholar Emily Kolbe for making this video a reality.

Behind the Scenes of McNair Video

5/24/2021- Start of Summer Research Institute

We are excited for the start of our McNair Summer Research Institute! Today our Scholars had their orientation, and it was so nice to see everyone in person. We can't wait to see the dynamic research our Scholars do this summer!

Summer Research Institute

5/20/2021- Upcoming Event for McNair Scholars

Upcoming Event Alert!
Undergraduate students interested in seeking an advanced degree can receive first-hand information from current or recent postgraduate degree-seekers in a supportive, peer-to-peer small-group conversation intended to answer questions about the application process and life as a student at the next level.
Sign up for the virtual Graduate & Professional School Advice event here:

Graduate and Professional School Advice Event

5/18/2021- Congrats to Graduate Jenna Schober

Congratulations to McNair Scholar Jenna Schober on graduating with her bachelor's in Animal Science and Psychology! She will be starting at Purdue University this fall, where she will be conducting research with the animal behavior and well-being group within their Animal Sciences Ph.D. program.

Jenna Schober

5/17/2021- Congrats to Graduate Ashlyn Werner

The McNair Program would like to congratulate McNair Scholar Ashlyn Werner on graduating with her bachelor's degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders! Her plans after graduation are to work at BRIDGE for Community Life an organization that works with adults and youth with disabilities.

Ashlyn Werner Graduation

5/11/2021- Congrats to Graduate Adrianna Kirckof

A BIG congratulations to McNair Scholar Adrianna Kirckof for graduating with her undergrad degree in Neuroscience and Psychology! This summer, she is moving to Kansas to start the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program at Kansas University. After she completes the program, she plans to go on to get her Ph.D.

Adrianna Kirckof Graduation

5/10/2021- Congrats to Graduate Emily Kolbe

We would like to congratulate McNair Scholar Emily Kolbe for graduating with her bachelor's degree in Horticulture with a minor in Spanish. She was awarded a diversity fellowship at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and will be starting the program mid-July. This fall she will start working toward her master's degree and eventually her Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics.

Emily Kolbe Graduation

4/30/2021- Congrats McNair Grads

We want to congratulate all of the graduating McNair Scholars! We are incredibly proud of the work you have done while at UW-River Falls, and we know you will all go on to do incredible things in your fields of study.

McNair Graduation 2021 Post

4/29/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Jenna Schober

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, animal science and psychology major, Jenna Schober.

"My name is Jenna Schober, and I am double majoring in animal science and psychology. I started my McNair research this past summer. With my mentor, Brian Greco, Ph.D., I was able to construct an animal-activated apparatus to be used with laboratory rats. The instrument was designed to help decrease stereotypic bar-chewing in rats but can be used with different species. I plan on going to graduate school for animal behavior and welfare and would like to go on to work with zoos.
I have been taking classes (mostly) online during this pandemic, which I have been enjoying. I am also the President of the UW-River Falls Bee Club, so I have been working on revamping the campus gardens and putting up bee hotels!"

Jenna Schober and Blanche

4/21/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Adrianna Kirckof

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, neuroscience and psychology major Adrianna Kirckof.

"My name is Adrianna Kirckof, and I am double majoring in neuroscience and psychology. I will be graduating in May, but the prospect of leaving UW-River Falls is bittersweet for me. I love this university and its wonderful community.

My research project with the McNair program was completed this past semester. My research interests lie within adolescent brain development and the development of psychopathological disorders like anxiety and depression. I originally wanted to begin a project that involved the mice in our neuroscience lab on campus. However, that project was postponed until this past fall since labs on campus were closed due to the pandemic. However, I then had the opportunity to write a three-part case study for an upper-level neuroscience course and then implemented it during the fall semester in 2020. That experience furthered my desire to eventually teach and mentor students at an undergraduate institution one day. In the end, I’m grateful for both experiences and probably would not have had the opportunity to do both projects if it had not been for the pandemic postponing my first project."

Adrianna Kirckof

4/19/2021- Relive TRIO Day 2021

Did you miss the virtual TRIO Day event on April 15? Maybe, you want to relive the day all over again. Well now you can watch the event anytime you please. Enjoy hearing our dynamic student speakers and a special message from Chancellor Foster.

You can access the live recording here:

4/12/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Abigail Wick-Lambert

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, animal science and biology major, Abigail Wick-Lambert!

"My name is Abigail Wick-Lambert, and I am a junior double majoring in animal science and biology. In order to complete my second major, I will be staying in school for an additional year to have more time to do research. This summer,  I will participate in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at UW-Madison. Next summer, I will be conducting my research through the McNair Program. I am excited about both opportunities, and I can’t wait to gain new experience and meet other students!

My goal is to get into a comparative biomedical sciences graduate program after I graduate from UW-River Falls. When I am not focusing on my studies, I enjoy reading, crocheting, and cooking!"

Abigail Wick-Lambert

4/9/2021- TRIO Day 2021 Student Speakers

TRIO Day is just a week away! We are excited to have students Byrgen Buetow, Drea Lamphere, and A Lee Xiong speaking about their experience within UW-River Falls' TRIO programs. Join us on April 15 from 4-5:30 pm to hear their stories and see a special appearance from Congressman Ron Kind!

Click HERE to join us on April 15!

TRIO Day Student Speakers

4/1/2021- Spring McNair Graduate School Retreat

Whether you are just beginning the process of thinking about graduate school or about to apply/have applied, join WAEOPP on April 9 for a half-day, virtual conference with presentations by Dr. Don Asher, Carl McNair, a graduate student panel, and a virtual grad school fair.

Sign up here:

3/29/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Charlie Huschka

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, education major Charlie Huschka.

"I am Charlie Huschka, and I am currently obtaining my degree in education. Thanks to the McNair Program, I will be pursuing my athletic administration degree at the graduate level. This summer, with my mentor and the Athletic Director's help, I will begin researching the impact social media has on student-athletes. With the information I gain from this research, I will start work on a curriculum about social literacy training, hopefully, something that other grade school and college-age students can use."

Charlie Huschka

3/26/2021- TRIO Day 2021

Join UW-River Falls' Student Support Services, McNair Program, and Upward Bound online on April 15 from 4-5:30p to hear from current students in the TRIO program and a special guest appearance by Congressman Ron Kind.

We will also be hosting a virtual get-to-know-you session at the end of the event with past and present students, faculty, and staff.

The event will be hosted on Microsoft Teams. Click HERE to join on April 15!

Trio Day 2021 Save the Date

3/23/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Jaidan Scheunemann

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, outdoor enthusiast Jaidan Scheunemann.

"My name is Jaidan Scheunemann, and I am junior studying biomedical sciences. I will be conducting my McNair research this summer, and I am very excited about the opportunity! I am originally from Lake Geneva, Wis., which is at the bottom of the state.

In my free time, I enjoy going for hikes and singing. I love UW-River Falls due to how much nature is all around and how friendly everyone on campus is. Before the pandemic, I loved meeting new people and did a few intramural sports on campus."

Jaiden Scheunemann

3/17/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Kendra Letch

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, Conservation and Environmental Planning major Kendra Letch.

"My name is Kendra Letch. I will be graduating this May with my Bachelor of Science in conservation and environmental planning with a minor in soil science. I recently received my letter of acceptance to UW-Stout for graduate school. I will be starting in the fall of 2021 and will be obtaining my master's degree in my field of conservation biology.

In my free time, I love doing anything that involves learning more about nature or being in nature. You can usually find me watching a documentary about anything to do with biology. I also love a good game of cribbage. My brother and I recently took second in a cribbage tournament!

In this photo, I am on the left and my research partner, Melissa, is on the right. This picture was taken at White Pine Berry Farm in River Falls, where we did our research together last summer. Our research was focused on comparing dairy and turkey manure with digestate."

Kendra Letch and Melissa Preston

3/10/2021- McNair Mentor Makes Astrophysics Discovery

Researchers, including Associate Professor and McNair Mentor Suruj Seunarine and Professor Glenn Spiczak, contributed to a significant, astrophysics discovery published today in Nature as a result of their work with the IceCube Collaboration.

The IceCube Collaboration is a group of scientists, researchers, students and others who’ve worked together to build and operate the world’s largest neutrino detector which recently played a significant role in confirming a 60-year-old particle physics theory. The group currently includes 300 people from 53 institutions in 12 countries.

Read the full release:

3/9/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Gregory Peterson

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, inspiring filmmaker, and English educator Gregory Peterson!

"My name is Gregory, and I am currently spending my final semester at UW-River Falls completing my student teaching experience. So far, it's been a blast, and I expect the fun to continue. The group I'm working with is super welcoming, and the students are great. I am double majoring in creative writing and broad area English education with the hopes to enter a creative writing master's program next fall.

Over the summer, I conducted a creative project where I studied the ins and outs of both screenwriting and filmmaking. My goal with the project is to write, produce, and direct my own short film. So far, I have my actors and some crew members, but I have currently put the project on hold until I can find some time in everyone's schedules to film. I found that the pandemic has deterred business owners from letting us use their space for filming, and there's always the concern of safety for my cast and crew.

This past August, my son, Clark, was born. I have been spending all my free time with him. He just turned six months on February 6th! He's a real handful but such a joy."

Gregory Peterson

3/4/2021- Upcoming Presentation Opportunities

Attention McNair Scholars! We have two new upcoming presentation opportunities for you:

McNair Presentation Opportunities March 2021

3/2/2021- Meet McNair Scholar Izzy Rottier

Meet this week's McNair Scholar, Izzy Rottier!

"My name is Izzy and I am a pre-McNair Scholar. I am currently looking into what research I will be conducting over the summer of 2022! I am majoring in communication sciences and disorders and minoring in early childhood education. I have been doing school online and it has been going really well. I enjoy being able to work at my own pace and get organized in a way that works best for me. In my free time, I enjoy playing games with my family and friends, shopping, and spending time outside."

Izzy Rottier

2/27/2021 - National TRIO Day

Every fourth Saturday in February is reserved for National TRIO Day. This is a day to commemorate the annual achievements of the Federal TRIO programs and the students who are a part of them. UW-River Falls' McNair Scholars Program is proud of our scholars and all they have accomplished.

National TRIO Day

2/24/2021 - McNair Program Information Session

Are you interested in attending graduate school and pursuing a master's degree or, ultimately, a Ph.D.? Then you may be eligible to become a McNair Scholar! Join Antonio Freeman. Ph.D., program coordinator for the McNair Scholars Program, as he discusses the program and how it can help you prepare for and get accepted into graduate school.

Overview of the McNair Program

2/23/2021 - Meet McNair Scholar Ashley Mcgee

Meet another one of our McNair Scholars, a creative soul named Ashley Mcgee!

“My name is Ashley, and I’m double majoring in marketing communications and graphic design. I am currently in my 6th year of study. I am going to be identifying my academic mentor soon so I can start my Summer Institute Project. My academic goal is to get my MFA in graphic design. Due to this, I spent my winter break visiting the library as much as humanly possible so I could check out a ridiculous amount of graphic design books! In my free time, I like to give back and use the skills I've learned in college to help student organizations, small businesses, and local nonprofits, including Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue and The Phipps Center for the Arts. I find inspiration in vintage Life magazines, art history movements, pop art, printmaking techniques, analog photography, polaroid emulsion lifts, the Pentagram design firm, International Typographic Style, sacred geometry, and math (fractals and space-filling curves).”

Ashley Mcgee

2/17/2021 - Meet McNair Scholar Emily Kolbe

Quarantine hasn’t been easy, but the students within the McNair Program continue to persevere! Learn how one senior McNair Scholar has been spending her time in quarantine and preparing to graduate and get her Ph.D. in plant nreeding and genetics.

“My name is Emily Kolbe, and I am a senior in both the McNair Program and UW-River Falls. I’m majoring in horticulture with a minor in spanish. Apart from my McNair seminar this semester, I am taking a full-time internship at Bachman’s, working in their greenhouses in Farmington, Minn. I will be planting annuals, perennials, and various other plants to prep for the upcoming season.

Over the summer, I completed my research project while in quarantine from most of the world. Due to the pandemic, I had to change my research project idea. However, thanks to my adviser, David Zlesak, Ph.D., we thought up a new plan that would be easier to execute with the materials I had in my apartment. I ended up working with roses from the Lyndale Park Rose Garden in southern Minneapolis. I was using rose plants that were established in the garden to determine if there was any significant difference between the number of petals, anthers (male reproductive parts), and pistils (female reproductive parts) between the first to open bloom and each subsequent secondary bloom in the cluster of blooms between the beginning, middle, and end of the season. It was fun, and now I can extend the study while in grad school if I wanted to see if I can prove my hypothesis to be correct.

When I’m not working, I enjoy sewing, hiking, birdwatching, scrapbooking, caring for my ~70 houseplants, and I have just started getting into embroidery. I am also planning my wedding for 2022!”

Emily Kolbe

11/4/2020 - First Generation College Celebration Day

With First-Generation College Celebration Day coming up, we asked UW-River Falls McNair Scholars to describe their First-Gen experience. Read their stories here!First Gen Celebration


11/4/2020 - Firt-Generation College Celebration Day

Celebrate First-Generation college students this Sunday!First Gen Day Date


10/1/2020 - McNair Scholars Present their Research 

UW-River Falls McNair Scholars are participating in the Baylor University McNair Research Conference (Oct. 1-2). Scholars will be presenting their research findings from this year's Summer Research Institute. For more information on the Baylor University McNair Research Conference, click here.


09/14/2020 - Graduate Programs: Northwestern University



09/14/2020 - Opportunity Announcement

Check out this great opportunity to learn about undergraduate research, applying to graduate school, and more, hosted by the University of Michigan. This event is open to the public and is free! Sign up HERE.



09/10/2020 - Events for Alumni

On Tuesday, September 22 at 6:30 p.m ET, COE (Council of Opportunity in Education) is hosting a free networking event for alumni to learn form the experiences of peers in various industries including journalism, higher education and tech to hear about how they havetransitioned from TRIO ino their professional careers. After the career chat, stick aroundfor networking and fun with music and a live DJ! The deadline to register is Monday, September 14. Register here.

Annual Conference Alumni Event


08/28/2020 - McNair Alumni Success

McNair Alumnus Nicholas Schlaeger’s (Cohort 17) research with mentor Dr. Cheng-Chen Huang and others was published in the online journal SciMedCentra. To read more about Nicholas’ research (titled ‘Synthetic Compounds That Inhibit Melanoma Growth and Invasiveness by Reducing Cancer Stem Sell Population) click on the following link:


08/17/2020 - McNair Alumni Success

McNair Alumna Michaela Eden's research "The Impact of Premiums on Stall-free Pork at the Restaurant Level" was published in the Kansas State University's online journal on Agricultural Economy, Follow the link to read Michaela's research findings.


08/17/2020 - Resources for Students

AESS resources 2020-2021AESS resources 2020-2021m

08/11/2020 - Opportunity for McNair Scholars

Diverse Academic Opportunities Program Flyer


08/05/2020 - Survey Participants Needed

Current Summer Research Institute Scholar Crystal Malagon needs survey respondents to help her gather information for her undergraduate research. Her survey description and link to the survey are below. Thank you for participating!

My name is Crystal Malagon and I am Majoring in Psychology at UW–River Falls. I am writing to invite you to participate in a research study about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how that may influence behavior. If you are interested in participating, please take a brief (approximately 10-15 minutes) online survey (click link below). Your participation is completely voluntary, and you can exit the survey at any time. All information will be kept confidential and no personally-identifying information will be collected. Any questions or concerns can be directed to me via this e-mail, or Dr. Cyndi Kernahan at 


08/03/2020 - Survey Participants Needed

Current Summer Research Institute Scholar Drea Lamphere needs survey respondents to help her gather information for her undergraduate research. Her survey description and link to the survey are below. Thank you for participating!

My name is Andrea ‘Drea’ Lamphere, and I am a senior in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls conducting research on the Perceived Employment Desirability of Non-white, Non-heterosexual Women and the Influence of Social-Vocational Comfortability within the Career Sector. This summer and fall, I am conducting a cross sectional mixed methods survey which will allow me to analyze perceived disparities in desirability of employment candidates. Participation in this survey is completely voluntary and respondents will not receive additional incentive for its completion. If you are interested in taking the survey, please use the following anonymous link:
If you have further questions about how respondent data will be held secure, or are looking for contact information for the lead researcher, Andrea 'Drea' Lamphere, please see the Consent Form embedded within the first question of the survey.



07/31/2020 - Scholar Update: Graduation

Congratulations to graduating McNair Scholars; Greta Albu, Anthony Craig, Jacob Hanson-Flores, Devon Burris, Rachel Harris, Keely Johnson, Ashlynn Kirk and Lucy Landaeta! We are so proud of your achievements. 

The Spring and Summer 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony will take place on August 8th at 10 a.m. Follow the link for details!…/C…/August82020VirtualCommencement.cfm



7/29/2020 - Scholar Update: WIsys SPARK Symposium

Congratulations to current scholar Emily Kolbe (Cohort 20), who presented her research (Determination of Rosa hybrida Floral Part Counts Based on Time of Season and Flower Number) last week at the WIsys SPARK Symposium Virtual Series: Student Research & Innovation Showcase. For a more detailed description of Emily's research, follow the link:


07/ 13/2020 - Reminder: University of Minnesota Virtual Tour

Scholars, the University of Minnesota's virtual tour is coming up! Make sure to be there on July 14th from 9:00 AM to 10:15 AM. Other details will be discussed privately. 


06/24/2020 - Update: Virtual Site Visit at Iowa State University

Current Scholars (Cohort 20) attended the Iowa State University’s virtual site visit on Tuesday, June 23rd where they learned about the graduate programs offered at Iowa State and the opportunities available to enrolled McNair alumni, as well as talked to current graduate students about their experience at the University. Scholars also met with:

- Dr. William R. Graves, the Dean of the Graduate College at
Iowa State University
- Dr. Thelma Harding, the Coordinator for Recruitment and
Retention in the Graduate College and the Director of the
McNair Program at Iowa State University
- Ms. Carmen Jones, a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate
College at Iowa State University
- And a panel of current Iowa State graduate students

Many of the Scholars also arranged virtual visits with Iowa State Faculty to discuss their research interests and future graduate school plans.

UW-River Falls McNair Scholars have visited the Iowa State University campus in previous years, but due to current events, we are grateful that Iowa State hosted a virtual visit where scholars could safely learn more about the University. Students described their experience as “helpful” and “beneficial”, and many of them said that the graduate student panel gave them useful advice and a true insight into life at the University.

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