An offhand discussion with a teaching assistant introduced Erick Aguinaldo to the McNair Scholars Program at Cal State Fullerton, forever changing the direction of his life.
Aguinaldo came to CSUF for psychology, expecting to become a therapist. “I knew it was necessary to go to grad school, and the process was intimidating,” he says. Excited about the guidance the McNair Scholars Program could provide, he took a chance and got involved with a research project.
To his surprise, he loved research. He began studying gender norms, stereotypes and socialization under the mentorship of Kristin Beals, professor of psychology. This fall, he will begin the joint doctoral program in psychology and women studies at the University of Michigan.
Patricia Literte, program director and associate professor of sociology, explains that the McNair Scholars — a federally-funded TRIO program for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students — provides the strategies and tools to successfully prepare for and apply to graduate school.
“While all of our scholars had the goal of attending graduate school before joining McNair, most had little information about the necessary steps to achieve this goal. The most important part of the process is their involvement in faculty-mentored research. McNair provides the platform for our students to not only grow as individuals, but also contribute to the vibrant intellectual life that can be found at CSUF.”
Aguinaldo and his fellow scholars displayed their work at the April 26 McNair Scholars research symposium and graduation program, where President Fram Virjee told the graduating seniors, “Like Ron [McNair], you see possibilities; you don’t see obstacles. You personify that promise and that future. We’re so proud of you and are so excited to see what you’re going to do.”
First-generation student Darnell Calderon plans to do exactly what he’s come to love at CSUF — research in sociology.
“I have been admitted to four doctoral programs because of the experience I gained from the program,” he says proudly.
This fall he will begin the doctoral program in sociology at the University of California, Irvine.
Calderon and Aguinaldo both describe McNair Scholars as a close-knit community. “The program gives space to interact and grow with fellow ‘nerds.'” Aguinaldo laughs. “We are all so passionate about research.”
Members of the McNair graduating class and their plans:
- Erick Aguinaldo of Diamond Bar will begin the joint doctoral program in psychology and women studies at the University of Michigan.
- Judith Avila of Santa Ana will pursue the master’s program in geography, environment and society at the University of Minnesota.
- Darnell Calderon of Fullerton will start the doctoral program in sociology at the University of California, Irvine.
- Shirley Chikuhwa of Perris will begin the doctoral program in music at Columbia University.
- Ulisses Esparza of Huntington Park has been admitted to California State University, Northridge.
- Shayna La Scala of Ontario will start the doctoral program in sociology at the University of California, Riverside.
- Kimberly Madrigal of Anaheim is applying to graduate programs in education.
- Christina Mu of Arcadia will pursue the doctoral program in aging studies at the University of Southern Florida.
- Mimi Nguyen of Santa Ana will begin the master’s program in demography and social analytics at the University of California, Irvine.
- Vanessa Sanchez of West Covina will pursue the doctoral program in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Marialexia Zaragoza of Colton will start the doctoral program in education at the University of Pittsburgh.