A Federal TRIO Program


McNair Scholar Wins University Award

Cassandra Osei, a senior double majoring in History and Latin American Studies, was the recipient of the Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award.  This award is presented to a student who has demonstrated through his or her actions a genuine concern for furthering the ideals of KU and higher education as a whole.  The Rusty Leffel Award is one of seven University Awards given to students at the University of Kansas.  The University Awards are among the most prestigious awards presented at KU, recognizing students who embody service, dedication, or academic excellence. Every year, students are nominated for one of seven University Awards. 

Cassandra has demonstrated such concern through her passion for social justice, namely black feminist and civil rights movements.  Through her research opportunities and engagement in the KU Community, Cassandra has discovered her educational and career interests and strove for positive change at KU. 

Prior to and during her first year with the McNair Scholars Program, Cassie’s research interests centered on black feminism, specifically on feminist movements in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Cassie expanded her research interests to feminist movements in other cultures, studying Brazilian black woman identity and politics as part of a study abroad project.  In the summer of 2014, Cassie studied systematic racism through university admissions policies as part of a research experience for undergraduates program, expanding her research interests further and providing a better understanding of injustices that affect people of color in higher education.

Cassie has used this knowledge of issues that hinder women and people of color to create positive change for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  As a member of the Multicultural Affairs Committee with the KU Student Senate, Cassie has raised awareness of cultural sensitivity and diversity in admissions, and was involved in initiating a diversity task force to make KU more inclusive.


Eleven TRIO McNair Scholars earn KU degrees, Honored for Undergraduate Research Achievements

Eleven graduating University of Kansas seniors in the TRIO McNair Scholars Program in the Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI) have received certificates, awards and special scholarly cords honoring their completion of the rigorous program. Their achievements were recognized at a May 2 banquet at the Kansas Union that included remarks from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, other university leaders and program alumni.

As one of eight Federal TRIO Programs in AAI’s Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP), the McNair Scholars Program engages its students in various learning activities designed to help them become competitive candidates for graduate school. Each scholar conducts a summer research project in his or her major field of study under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

“This is always a thrilling moment in the academic year,” said McNair Scholars Program Director Mulu Negash, herself an alumna of the program. “We watch these students grow intellectually and advance in their fields of study, and while their roads to success are not easy, their time at KU and with McNair teaches them how to rise above difficult challenges to accomplish goals.”

In addition to their participation in the summer-research internship, scholars complete an interdisciplinary-research-methods course and a GRE preparation course sponsored by the program. They also meet individually with program staff every two weeks during the academic year and attend monthly workshops.

This year, students presented their research at national and regional McNair research conferences at the University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County and the Heartland Research Conference in Kansas City.

 “They may forget the various theories and systems they learned, or our conversations and presentations with McNair, but I am confident that they will retain valuable critical-thinking, research and scholarly skills,” Negash said. “Our aim for this program includes helping individuals refine their resiliency and tenacity, develop resourcefulness and imagine greater futures than what they otherwise might have thought possible.”

Gray-Little and AAI Director Neal Kingston presented each student with special scholarly cords to commemorate their journeys to graduation. Blue cords represented the intellectual scholarship and rigorous research projects the students completed. Gold cords went to students who earned departmental honors and completed undergraduate honor’s theses. Kingston and CEOP Director Ngondi Kamatuka presented students with certificates for successfully completing the McNair Scholars Program, and several were honored with special awards.

Clint Jensen (gold) of Kansas City, Mo., served as the senior speaker and also received a McNair Spirit Award; Yliana Ruiz (blue) of Guadalajara, Mexico, was recognized with a McNair Spirit Award.

Ronald E. McNair Challenger Awards went to Jamie Fuller (blue) of Wichita, Kan., and Jon Nelson (gold) of Salina, Kan. The Katherine Humphrey Memorial Award went to Ruaa Hassaballa (blue) of Khartoum, Sudan, and the LaTina Sullivan Memorial Award went to Louisa Hussein (blue) of Accra, Ghana. The Chico Herbison Leadership Award went to Joshua Russell (gold) of Lawrence, Kan.

Others to earn gold cords were Merritt Schenk of Buhler, Kan., and Tyler Wieland of Clay Center, Kan. Others to earn blue cords were Paul Fowler III, Lawrence, Kan., and Eric Rivera of Los Angeles.

KU faculty members Nathaniel Brunsell (geography), Evangelia Chrysikou (psychology) and Allan Hanson (anthropology) were honored with McNair Mentor Awards for their exceptional service as mentors and their commitment to advancing underrepresented students in scholarly endeavors.

Belinda Hinojos, who received the McNair Scholars Outstanding Achievement & Service Award, addressed the banquet as McNair Alumna Speaker. Hinojos, who holds two KU degrees—a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in counseling psychology—went on to earn a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, where she now works as a psychologist in the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and also serves as the Latino outreach specialist and liaison for UNL’s TRIO Programs.


By the Numbers: The McNair Scholars Program at KU

Since its establishment at KU in 1992, 263 students have participated in the McNair Scholars Program, with 16 new scholars joining during the 2013-2014 academic year. In 22 years at KU:

·         224 Scholars have earned bachelor’s degrees

·         109 Scholars have earned master’s degrees

·         16 Scholars have earned PhDs

·         Eight Scholars have earned terminal/professional degrees (MD, JD, PharmD, PTD, VMD, EdD)


About AAI
AAI is the umbrella organization for four specialized educational research centers at the University of Kansas, including CEOP, which supports a wide spectrum of learners and provides educational information, counseling, academic instruction, tutoring, assistance in applying for financial aid and supportive encouragement to both students and their families. Programs help students overcome academic, economic, social, and cultural barriers to higher education. CEOP programs serve students at the University of Kansas, and youth and adults in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas. CEOP partners with more than 70 community agencies and schools in the state, including school districts in Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City, Kan., as well as the Kansas City, Kan., Housing Authority, the Kansas City Career Center, the KU Center for Research on Learning and the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth.

AAI’s other research centers are Agile Technology Solutions, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research, and the Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation. In all, AAI employs about 350 professionals, all committed to building partnerships, products, and programs in educational practice, assessment, and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities, and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels.


Media Contact
Bill Woodard
Communications Manager
Achievement & Assessment Institute

The University of Kansas
bwoodard@ku.edu | 785.864.1680


Research Associate Receives TRIO Achiever Award

Dr. Jamie Bezdek, a KU alumna and participant in the McNair Scholars Program, was the recipient of the TRIO Achiever award at the 36th Annual MO-KAN-NE Conference.  The award is given to former TRIO participants that have received recognition within their profession or for outstanding academic achievement.  Dr. Bezdek received her bachelor’s degree in Speech, Language, & Hearing in 2001.  Dr. Bezdek would continue her post-secondary education at the University of Kansas, earning her Master’s in special education with a concentration in autism in 2006 and her Ph.D. in 2011.  In her time as a McNair Scholar, graduate student, and professional, Jamie has embodied the ideals of TRIO by being the first in her family to earn a Doctoral degree and using her education to positively impact disadvantaged students.

Jamie began her journey to impact the lives of others by studying autism in children as a McNair Scholar.  She began two undergraduate research projects with the department of Speech, Language, & Hearing.  Jamie’s first project studied the parental satisfaction of speech language services for students with autism.  Her second focused on the satisfaction, perceptions and preparedness of school speech-language pathologists working with students with autism.  This experience with autism, combined with the goals and values of TRIO, left Jamie with a vision to transform the field of special education by being an advocate for students who face special challenges in education.  Jamie would continue this vision during her post-graduate studies, eventually earning a Master of Education specializing in autism and a Ph.D. in special education.    

In her professional career, Jamie works to promote educational equality for all students by tackling ambitious projects on comprehensive school reform.  She works as part of a multidisciplinary research and training team committed to making a significant and sustainable positive difference in the quality of life of individuals and families affected by disability and the professionals who support them.  Currently, Dr. Bezdek works at the University of Kanas as a Researcher at the Beach Center on Disability, within the LifeSpan Institute working on implementing lasting change within school systems enabling them to appropriately and inclusively support all students through the SWIFT Center, a national technical assistance center for inclusive school reform.  Particularly, her research advocates for enhancing parent-professional partnerships, implementing school wide positive behavior support models in urban school districts.  Jamie has done exceptional work with USD 500 schools and other urban schools to promote school wide integrated frameworks for disadvantaged students.  Her commitment to educational equality is grounded in her beginnings as a TRIO student and serve as a prime contribution to her professional commitment similar to TRIO programs.



McNair Scholars Delivered an Inspirational Talk to TRIO professionals

On April 2, 2014, McNair alumna Diana Restrepo (pictured left) and current scholar Jamie Fuller spoke at the 36th Annual MO-KAN-NE Professional Conference in Kansas City, MO.  In front of an audience of 174 TRIO professionals, Diana and Jamie shared their academic journey and the role of TRIO programs in broadening their access to higher education.  Both women spoke about the challenges of navigating college and academics due to coming from families with little or no post-secondary education and few financial resources.  Diana and Jamie attributed their academic success to McNair Scholars Program and their faculty mentors.  Jamie and Diana told of how McNair and other TRIO programs are vital for the success of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented college students. Both scholars inspired TRIO professionals to continue to persevere in their endeavors to advocate for students. Diana is completing her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies form KU and will be starting her Ph.D. at KU’s Geography department. Jaime Fuller, a recent recipient of the National FLAS award, will be starting a Master’s program in Geography at the University of Kansas.




McNair Scholar Receives Student Leadership Award

On April 1, 2014, The University of Kansas Medical Center presented Ruaa Hassaballa with a student leadership award. Ruaa, a senior in the clinical laboratory sciences program, was honored with the Student Diversity Award, which is given to students based on their passion for diversity and the capacity to demonstrate leadership skills in this area.  Ruaa was nominated for the award based on her University service and leadership, which centered on diversity, teamwork and cooperative learning.  Ruaa’s award is featured on KU Medical Center Home Page. http://www.kumc.edu/



On Friday December 6th, the McNair Scholars Program gathered for its final symposium and to celebrate the graduation of four scholars.  Louisa Hussein, Paul Fowler III, Jon, Nelson, and Tyler Wieland were honored for their contributions to research in each of their respective majors and attainment of their Bachelor’s degrees. Each graduate was individually recognized, using excerpts from their statements of purpose for both their McNair Scholars Program application as well as their Graduate school applications. The quotes highlighted the depth and growth of each graduate, demonstrating their strengths and personal accomplishments within the academic community. Paul Fowler III, graduating with his bachelors in History, is also the recipient of the Nicole Bingham Memorial Scholarship and the Undergraduate Research Award.  Jon Nelson, who will be receiving his B.A. in sociology, is also the recipient of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Betty Wahlstedt award for excellence in the social sciences and the KU Office of Study Abroad Scholarship.  Nelson is a member of the Honors Program and is a National Merit Scholar.  Tyler is obtaining his bachelor’s degree with honors in atmospheric science.  He was also honored with the Undergraduate Research Award and is a Hixson ScholarLouisa Hussein is graduating as a dual major in psychology and applied behavioral science. During her tenure as a scholar she obtained certifications in First Aid & CPR, Service Learning, and the Research Experience Program.

Additionally, Graduate Assistant Chelsie Bright presented her final symposium with the KU McNair Scholars Program titled, “Disseminating Research.” Bright will be leaving her position as a graduate assistant with the program in order to expand her own research and obtain her PhD. Bright’s contributions to the program as an adviser and assistant are vast and will be greatly missed. The staff and students of the McNair Scholars Program wish all the best to our graduates and to Chelsie Bright.

For more McNair News - Check out the McNair Chronicle, Fall 2013

Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair

Ronald Ervin McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina to Carl and Pearl McNair. He attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where, in 1971, he graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in physics.

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   NOVEMBER 7, 2014 


The Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the TRIO programs, was established at the University of Kansas in October 1992. It is one of 185 Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Programs nationwide, designed to help ensure that the next generation of American faculty members represents the diversity of our society at large by preparing students from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral study.

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