Ronald E. McNair Graduate Fellowship

2019-2020 Recipient

Name: Britany Dagen

Within my undergraduate experiences as a first-generation college student, I struggled with my identity as an academic from an uneducated family. I grew up in a rural town in Northern California where I felt my education left me underprepared for college settings. As I entered my first Literature and Writing course at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM), I felt embarrassed mentioning to my professor that I had never written a four-page paper and did not know what “Modern Language Association” (MLA) formatting was. After our conversation, I worked tirelessly with my professor and the CSUSM Writing Center on developing foundational academic writing skills. As the semester ended, one thought remained in my mind: many students—particularly those from underrepresented communities—are not receiving adequate training in English courses. For this reason, my professional goal is to teach literature and writing at a community college to aid students from non-traditional academic settings or who come from historically underrepresented backgrounds. My undergraduate curriculum has included and emphasized a range of topics, including critical theory, and global, British, and U.S. literature, with a cultural studies emphasis throughout the program. At the University of Utah, I desire to develop these areas of study further by focusing on the teaching practicum and American literature opportunities in the department of English.

The English department’s emphasis in Literary and Cultural Studies prepares students for a wide range of academic and professional endeavors. Students are presented with course material ranging from literary criticism and theory, American, British, and Global literature, film, and digital texts through a lense of understanding societal ideologies in culturally diverse regions. With over 35 staff members (and 4.6 million texts stored in Marriot Library), the possibilities for experiencing a quality academic environment are limitless at the U!

2018-2019 Recipients

Name: Anita Juarez

My interest in education theory and praxis is guided by the belief that the social, cultural, political, and economic realities of U.S. white settler colonialism today are in urgent need of radical change. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in the department of Education, Culture, and Society (ECS). My dissertation does a historical tracing of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—which continues to serve as the basis for contemporary k-12 public education policy, like the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. Through an analysis that draws from theories of racial capitalism and U.S. settler colonialism, my project debunks mainstream liberal discourses attached to the policy and instead describes how U.S. federal education reform has historically evolved alongside military restructurings and anti-crime policies. My hope is that this research contributes to efforts working towards reimagining and actualizing radical alternatives to state-sanctioned schooling. I arrived to Salt Lake City, Utah by way of East Los Angeles, California—the place I continue to call home and where my family currently resides.

The department of Education, Culture, and Society (ECS) introduces students to a range of interdisciplinary critical research in education. Given its strong emphasis on social justice theory and praxis in education, ECS equips people with the necessary tools to make critical interventions and contributions to the field and society at large.

Name: Pang Tao Moua

My name is Pang Tao Moua, and I am a first-generation college student. I was born in California and raised in Minnesota where I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I am currently a Ph.D. speech-language pathology student at the University of Utah Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders where I serve as a research assistant in the English Learner Research Laboratory under the advising of Dr. Robert Kraemer. My research focuses on the Hmong people with interest in current language assessment practices of school-based speech-language pathologists (SLPs) working with bilingual Hmong students suspected of having a language impairment.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders cultivate a positive learning environment through intensive clinical and research training. The faculty members support academic achievements by providing the appropriate tools and resources in becoming a successful graduate student clinician and researcher.

Name:Hanna E. Morzenti

Hanna E. Morzenti, is a first-generation Ph.D. student in the College of Social Work at the University of Utah. As part of her undergraduate studies, Hanna was accepted and completed the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program at the University of Wisconsin, where she graduated in 2006 with a BS in Criminal Justice and Sociology. Hanna then pursued her MA in Criminal Justice at Washington State University, graduating in 2008. Spending over 10 years working in the social services field in Idaho and Wisconsin, she then completed her MSW at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho in 2014. Hanna began her Ph.D. at the U in August 2017 and is interested in researching vulnerable populations within the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems. She is hoping to focus her dissertation research specifically on High Functioning Autism in the Criminal Justice System.

The strongest quality of the PhD Social Work program at the University of Utah is being able to work with a variety of researchers from diverse personal and research backgrounds. Prior to attending the U, I had primarily focused on quantitative research; however, since experiencing classes in epistemology and qualitative research methods, I have been able to expand my research interests to incorporate a variety of methods when conducting research. The College of Social Work has an abundance of experienced and personable faculty, whom are willing and able to assist students in getting the best, well-rounded, education possible.

Name: Arnulfo B.N. Tunon-Ortiz

I was born in Mexico and immigrated to Texas at around five years old on my mother’s back. I grew up helping her clean houses and offices while she drilled into me that education is the key to success. Despite the obstacles, I found myself at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas where I joined the McNair Program that made my pursuit for a Neuroscience PhD possible. My dissertation project is to understand how the blood-brain barrier breaks down in children with cerebral malaria, by which I will develop my expertise as a neuroimmunologist to provide insights into research in neurological disorders and explore global health issues. However, I am here thanks to all the helping hands along the way. Therefore I also strive to be one such hand to those who might need it by being a mentor and aspiring leader in outreach programs.

The strongest quality of the Neuroscience PhD program is the supportive environment it has fostered. You don’t just feel part of the scientific community, but a community full of diverse individuals that inspire and encourage your professional and personal growth.

Name:Daniel E. Rivera

My name is Daniel E. Rivera and I come from the island of Puerto Rico. An early diagnosis of epilepsy was the beginning of an unmatched interest and passion in the field of neuroscience and neuropathology. After graduating High School, I went to Florida International University and got a degree in Biomedical Engineering. In addition, I joined the McNair Fellowship program in my 3rd year and received the “World’s Ahead” recognition from the university president at graduation. It was in my undergraduate career that I began to perform scientific research on a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression under the guidance of Dr. Jorge Riera and presented in many in-state and national conferences. After two years of research, a publication, and a manuscript in progress, I decided to attend the University of Utah and pursue a PhD in Neuroscience.

With over 70 faculty involved, there is no shortage of research opportunities in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. This program has shown to have the student’s interests and well-being as their priority and provides a highly structured and organized curriculum. The Neuroscience program also allows for up to 4 rotations in different labs to ensure that students make the right decision when choosing a lab and mentor to complete their PhD. Without a doubt, choosing the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Graduate Program at the U has proven to be one of the greatest decisions I have made.