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Breaking Down Barriers to Success

Weems in talkArts and Humanities PATH transfer students shine in campus-wide McNair Program

Three transfer students in the Division of Arts and Humanities have been selected as campus McNair scholars, a national program that supports first-generation students to help break down barriers in preparation for graduate school.

Kelly Clemen and Michael Alvarez each transferred to UC San Diego as part of the division’s PATH program, Preparing Accomplished Transfers to the Humanities. The third PATH student chosen for the McNair Program—30 students are selected annually on a competitive basis—took an alternate opportunity instead.

“It’s particularly important that our transfer students receive the support they need when arriving to UC San Diego in order for them to understand the full scope of possibilities that will help them succeed,” said Division of Arts and Humanities dean Cristina Della Coletta. “These tools, including PATH, the McNair Program and many others, help to ensure they thrive while students, as well as after graduation.”

As a McNair scholar, the undergraduates work two quarters with faculty mentors on a research project in their field, plus a paid, eight-week internship over the summer. Training includes how to write and present a scholarly research paper, conducting library research skills, preparation for graduate admissions testing, and guidance on applying to graduate schools and obtaining fellowships. The students are required to write a research proposal and present at a minimum of two research conferences.

Alvarez is working with Department of Philosophy professor Samuel Rickless. After completing “Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study” by Thaddeus Metz, Alvarez and Rickless outlined a research question that Metz doesn’t specifically address through the work, ultimately attempting to discover the “sufficient conditions” for a human’s life to be meaningful.

“The McNair Program has already helped me in my studies,” Alvarez said, “and the guidance and feedback I've received from my faculty mentor has given me insight into conducting philosophical research. One thing I think is pretty important in general is being able to have a sense of what ideas are worth pursuing. I’m not saying I know for sure yet, but I definitely have a better sense than I did at the start of the program.”

Clemen, who transferred from San Diego Miramar College, is working with Department of Ethnic Studies professor Wang Yang. The research project they are undertaking is about the history of the Kumeyaay Nation and their relationship to the land and campus. Clemen is serving as the documentarian for art being installed at Muir College, created by Kumeyaay artist Johnny Bear Contreras.

Read the full story on the UC San Diego News Center.

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