First-generation students learn about McNair program

The Undergraduate and Research Opportunities Center held the From McNair to CSUMB panel on April 20. The panel discussion detailed the McNair program scholars and how it is beneficial to first-generation students and California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) staff and faculty.

Panel discussion leader Wendy Feng is a first-generation McNair scholar majoring in environmental studies with a minor in pre-law. Feng is graduating in May 2022 and will be receiving the Outstanding Social Justice Senior Award. 

The workshop started with introductions from all four staff and faculty panelists. The panelists included second-year faculty member Renee Penalver in the department of psychology and third-year assistant professor with the Service Learning Institute, Chrissy Hernandez. 

Joining these two was Kenny Garcia, who is a research and instruction librarian, working mainly with the College of Health Sciences and Human Services and Christine Rosales, who is currently focusing on how psychology can be used to think about liberation and social injustice. 

Feng began by asking them how they got their support systems to persist as a part of a minority group, whether they were a first-generation student, a student of color, or something else. Feng also asked what barriers they encountered while going through higher education.

“Part of what helped me persist was both the McNair scholars cohort that I was in,” Garcia said. “They were kind of going through the program as I was, and we looked out for each other, and having that peer support was really helpful. Through undergrad and graduate school, I think the biggest barrier still is student loans and the financial cost of going to graduate school.”

Hernandez shared a similar sentiment to Garcia about her peers. 

“My biggest resource throughout grad and undergrad school has always been my peers. I think that for me, I didn’t totally know how to navigate all of the resources that were available to me, and it was usually my peers that informed me of them,” Hernandez said. “One of the things that [was] challenging was that I had some faculty that was cruel and judgmental, so some questioned my ability to be in a certain caliber and those kinds of messages that I carried with me on basically if I belonged or not.”

The staff and faculty were able to shed an interesting light on how the McNair program can help students, by sharing their stories with the program and how it helped them. With over 15 students at the panel, it was hopefully a good learning opportunity for them, encouraging them to visualize a future for themselves.

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