Honoring December Graduates

Tuesday night, we gathered to celebrate our three December graduates. We were honored to have mentors, family, and friends of the scholars join us as we honored the accomplishments of these three wonderful people.While we are sad to see each of them move on, we are also brimming with anticipation as we await the news of where they will be for the next chapter in their lives — graduate school! Graduates, we are thankful for each of you. May this next phase in your life be a blessing to you and to those you will serve in the future.

Florida Conference 2014

Two weeks ago, Dr. Jeff Arrington and his lovely wife, Linda, accompanied a group of our scholars to Miami, FL, to the Florida International McNair Scholars Conference. This conference is particularly geared toward students who are in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). While there, our scholars were able to present their research, attend a graduate school fair, and even hit the beach for a little down time. Dr. Arrington reports that the scholars did a fantastic job presenting their research! Special thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Arrington for traveling with these wonderful women!

Be sure to click on one of the pictures and scroll through the whole gallery from this trip.

Spreading the Word About McNair

It’s an exciting time of year for the ACU McNair Scholars Program! We are in the process of recruiting our cohort for 2015, and our schedules are packed with opportunities to speak to students about what our program can offer. Dr. Moore and I have been blessed to be able to visit some of the wonderful organizations on campus like Lynay, Pulse, the Black Students’ Association, Hispanos Unidos, and the Virtuous Sisterhood in order to share a little bit of information about what we do.

We also had the chance to host over 50 students at two interest lunches this week. Over plates of Sharon’s Barbecue, students heard about our summer research internship, conference travel for scholars who have completed research, and funding opportunities from graduate schools who love McNair scholars.

Dr. Moore and I are looking forward to the applications we should be receiving in the next two weeks, but what we are really looking forward to is meeting with our brand new scholars for the first time in January!

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Getting Past the Blank Screen

My floor-mates in college always knew when I was working on a paper by the size of my hair. Slowly but surely my curly red hair would grow into quite the inferno (think of Merida from Brave but with more hair product). And no, it was not from all the electricity generated by my fast and furious writing. It was the blank screen, and that nefarious flashing cursor. Minute by painstaking minute of “writing,” I would run my fingers through my hair rather than typing words–larger and larger would I fan the flames!

You may not turn into a Chia Pet when you write, but you probably do some pretty odd things when that cursor stares you down. Writing just doesn’t come easily to a lot of us, and yet we expect ourselves to write beautiful, eloquent, quotable prose as soon as we open a document. Most of us just can’t do that (and none of us like the people who can), so instead we stare at a blank screen, clean our room, reorganize our closets, call up an old friend, and pretty much anything else we can think of to avoid writing.

These days, when I sit down to write, I try to take a different approach. Instead of opening the document that will eventually contain the final product, I open a blank note in Evernote and make a serious commitment to myself. Between me, the thing I am writing, and God, I commit myself to writing a really, really terrible first draft. Run-on sentences? Check. Incomplete, half-baked thoughts? Done. Politically incorrect stories? Absolutely. Overuse of italics? You know it. Words like “super-duper”? Oh, yes. And if I can throw in a couple of keyboard smashes (you know something like:  a;lksdfja;sdkl jfa;), so much the better.

The point is that most of us get blocked up because our perfectionism and impatience get in the way of the writing process. We try to generate ideas, sort the good ideas from the bad, put the good ideas in a logical order, and come up with profound wording for it all–before we even touch a keyboard. Those are all attention- and energy-dense activities. No wonder we act a little bizarre when we try to do them all at once!

Anne Lamott, in her writing memoir Bird by Bird, has a great chapter with a title I can’t even directly quote. She implores us to write [crappy] first drafts so we can get enough words on the page to find the good ideas and clever turns of phrase that are the basic building blocks of good writing. [Crappy] first drafts are how most of us get to decent second drafts and great third drafts. If you’re anything like me, there are a lot of thoughts cluttering my head, and it’s vital to get that mess out so I can turn my attention in a more creative direction. [Crappy] first drafts are a way to focus on generating content, and delaying organization and revision for when there are plenty of words on the page (even if most of them won’t make the cut).

When you sit down to work on your next paper, personal statement, or other essay, try starting out with a [crappy] first draft. Write what you are thinking, what you wish you were thinking, and what you shouldn’t include in your paper. Misspell words, start a train of thought but let it derail to start another train. The point is to let yourself just write without judgment or revision, letting the creative juices flow.

With that blank screen staring me down, and my fingers itching to turn me into a human torch, I just remind myself, “Make it [crappy]” and start writing exactly what I’m thinking. It’s a mess, of course, but I’ll clean it up later and make that crappy draft a good draft. At this point, anything is better than a blank screen and a ginger who looks like he stuck a paper clip in an electrical outlet.

National McNair Conference at the University of New Mexico

This past week, we took a group of scholars to the National McNair Scholars Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was hosted by the University of New Mexico. The scholars presented their research from the summer, met scholars from other campuses, and learned a little more about the academic life at UNM. The conference was great, and the scholars did an excellent job with their presentations! (FYI: Tyler is not seen in the presentation pictures because only video was taken during his presentation.)

As an added bonus, we were able to visit Old Town Albuquerque, attend the International Balloon Fiesta, and spend a little time at the Albuquerque Zoo. The extra pictures are all from the Balloon Fiesta because it was one of the highlights of our trip.

Overall, our experience was fantastic! Thanks, Albuquerque! We hope to see you again next year!

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No, the blue wasn’t planned. It was pretty special, though.

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Go, Judy, go!

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Hailey did an amazing job!

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John also nailed his presentation.

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…and, thankfully, got the silly out prior to beginning.

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Because of how things were scheduled, I didn’t get to make it to everyone’s presentations. The scholars that went to support Cooper said he did a great job!

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A little celebratory dinner at Golden Pride. Yum!

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Bright-eyed at 4:30ish in the morning. Getting breakfast before…BALLOONS!

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Morning glow at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

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Sun rising behind the Sandia Mountains.

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This whale was amazing when it was fully inflated!

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Looking good after 3 or so hours.

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This owl had a cap and gown on. It seemed a fitting addition to our scholarly trip.

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Angry Birds!

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For over 3 hours, the sky was full of hot air balloons. It was an incredible sight!

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A picture of a pitcher. Ha!