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Grad School Dreams Realized

Graduating McNair Scholars Headed for New Degrees, Opportunities
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What once was a dream is coming to reality for 10 first-generation college students. Not only are they completing their undergraduate studies this spring, they also have been accepted into graduate programs at universities across the country.

They are the Class of 2017 grads from Cal State Fullerton’s Ronald McNair Scholars Program, a federally funded effort that provides faculty mentors, graduate-level research internships, workshops and seminars — all focused on helping low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students prepare for entering a master’s degree and/or doctoral program.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” says Vicente Mata, who will be entering a doctoral program in sociology at UC Merced. “The McNair Scholars shaped who I am, not just as a scholar but as an individual. The program allowed me to find myself, to blossom. Through it, I was able to explore what I really wanted to do. I wouldn’t have gotten here without it.”

“It was great being with academics of color who supported me through my journey, understanding the struggles and giving me advice on grad school,” said Diana Phan. “The program really helped me in my future endeavors as an artist scholar … the program helped me get into grad school by preparing me for what to expect and the logistics of grad school — from the applications to grad life. Thanks to the McNair program, I got accepted into four competitive graduate programs, and I accepted an offer to do an M.F.A. in fiction at San Diego State.”

“It’s still shocking to me to have reached this point in my life,” Mata said. “It is like closing one door, but another is opening up.”

Members of this year’s graduating class are:

Esmeralda Arreola of Irwindale, B.S. in physics, will begin the master of science in physics program at Cal State Fullerton.

Iliana Flores of Pomona, B.S. human services and B.A. psychology, is set to begin the doctoral program in counseling, clinical and school psychology at UC Santa Barbara.

Ryan Hamilton of Orange, B.S. mechanical engineering, is heading for a Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering at Washington State University.

Brianna Hernandez of Baldwin Park, B.S. human services, is entering the doctoral program in prevention science at Washington State University.

Vicente Mata of Anaheim, B.A. sociology-health and social welfare and ethnic studies-Chicano studies, is set to enter UC Merced’s Ph.D. program in sociology.

Robert Ontiveros of Baldwin Park, B.S. biological science-molecular biology and biotechnology, will enter the doctoral program in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Diana Phan of Montclair, B.A. English and women’s studies, is heading to the M.F.A. program in fiction at San Diego State University.

Ariana Romero of Placentia, B.S. human services, will be entering the master’s program in higher education at San Diego State University.

Deshawn Sambrano of San Pedro, B.A. psychology, will attend the doctoral program in psychology at New York University.

Carina Sandoval of Corona, B.S. biological science, will be entering UCLA’s molecular biology interdepartmental doctoral program in gene regulation.