Scholars to Spend Summer Advancing Dreams of Doctorates

Local Residents Heading for Cornell, Stanford and Universities Abroad

Cal State Fullerton student Vicente Mata has been juggling work, school and a family, but his future seems to be heading in the right direction. 

The first-generation college student previously attended another four-year educational institution "but wasn't ready for it." He was out of college for three years before returning to school at a community college, then transferred to Cal State Fullerton.

Last year, the Anaheim resident learned about CSUF'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.

Cal State Fullerton student Vicente Mata will spend seven weeks conducting research at UC Santa Barbara this summer. Other McNair Scholars from CSUF are traveling across the country and abroad this summer.

Cal State Fullerton student Vicente Mata will spend seven weeks conducting research at UC Santa Barbara this summer. Other McNair Scholars from CSUF are traveling across the country and abroad this summer.

"I never had graduate school in my trajectory," said the senior sociology and Chicana/Chicano studies major. "Joining the McNair Scholars Program opened lots of opportunities for me."

Fellow McNair Scholar Belinda Sanchez agrees. "The McNair Scholars Program allowed me to participate in academic and professional activities that, otherwise, I would not have been able to be a part of," says Sanchez of Anaheim, a biological sciences major who spent 10 weeks at the University of Florida to take part in a Neuroscience Research Program. "This program, through its various resources like advising, research and funding, has allowed me to grow academically. I feel much more prepared and knowledgeable about graduate school."

The McNair Program also has expanded these students' dreams beyond a bachelor's degree. Mata now hopes to achieve a doctorate in education and will be spending seven weeks at UC Santa Barbara conducting research focused on Latino males in education. Sanchez is looking forward to a graduate program in molecular biology.

Fellow McNair scholar Deshawn Sambrano, a senior psychology major from Fullerton, will be traveling to Stanford to study motivated perception, "a psychological phenomenon that when we are motivated to see something, that influences what we see," explains Sambrano.

"Over the summer I will be helping to investigate whether our motivation merely helps us interpret ambiguous stimuli, or whether our motivation actually effects what we see."

Spending the summer at Stanford "is a fantastic experience for me because it gives me an opportunity to conduct research at a doctoral-granting, R1 university," added Sambrano, whose goal is to earn a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience and become a faculty member at a research institution, "in order to contribute to the cultivation of new scientific knowledge through research, while teaching, guiding and mentoring young scholars.

"I want my college experience to mean something beyond the diploma," says Mata, a young father. "Just applying to graduate school, I have gained so much confidence. I don't want to lose sight of my goal … especially because of my daughter. It’s a very exciting time, and I'm very thankful for all the reassurance and support."

Mata, Sanchez and Sambrano are among the McNair Scholars spending this summer at research institutions around the world. Others bound for summer studies abroad and elsewhere are:

Alyssa Bormann of Anaheim, biochemistry, University of Oxford (England)
Leslie Ortega of Buena Park, biological sciences, University of Arizona
Brianna Hernandez of Chino, human services, Ohio State University
Sheila Samperio of Huntington Beach, health sciences, Chiang Mai University (Thailand)

Diana Phan of Montclair, English and gender studies, UC San Diego

Ariana Romero of Placentia, human services, University of Michigan

Carina Sandoval of Placentia, biological sciences, Cornell University
Iliana Florez of Pomona, human services, UC Santa Barbara