NMU Announces McNair Scholars, New Director

Lee Xiong

Northern Michigan University has announced 10 students who comprise the new group of scholars in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Lee Xiong has also joined NMU this semester as its new program director.

The McNair Scholars program is designed to increase graduate rates and post-baccalaureate success among first-generation students with financial need and students who come from a minority population that is underrepresented in graduate education.

The new group of McNair scholars, along with their fields of study and hometowns, are: 

Diana Antonio, Biochemistry and Spanish, Racine, Wis.

Thailey Leak, Neuroscience, Janesville, Wis.

Brazile Panek, Native American Studies, Red Cliff, Wis.

Aleah Edwards, Forensic Biochemistry, Ionia, Mich.

Madison Fetterman, Neuroscience, Dearborn, Mich.

Bonneta Chapman-Little, Psychology, Muskegon, Mich.

Kristian Choate, Biology and Neuroscience, St. Clair, Mich.

Baylee McLevis, Forensic Biochemistry, Ogilvie, Minn.

Darren Simmons, Medicinal Plant Chemistry, Houston, Texas

Sophia Rodman, Biology, Anoka, Minn.

During the next year, these students will spend their time conducting research for scholarly projects, exploring potential graduate schools and honing their professional skills to aid in their transition to graduate school.

The McNair Scholars program is part of a bigger family of federal TRIO programs created to fight poverty during the mid-1960s. Xiong is a TRIO alumna and worked for TRIO Upward Bound at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse before joining the McNair Scholars program at NMU.

“Since its creation, the functionality of TRIO programs has had very little development despite the changing landscape of poverty,” said Xiong. “The long-overdue problems TRIO programs were trying to address in the 1960s are the same challenges we are still facing today. Anticipating how the pandemic will shape higher education, I fear that the students I serve will be an afterthought when university administrators consider how higher education will look in a post-pandemic world.

“In addition to helping students develop their scholar identity, I plan to add more financial literacy workshops to our learning curriculum. I want students to be confident in making good financial decisions about their future education while considering how different the economy might be by the time they graduate from NMU.”

Xiong said that she also aims to instill the practices of radical hope and self-advocacy.

“Radical hope is founded on the thought that when our current way of making meaning of the world has been destroyed and can no longer be used as the filter to understand life, we must know how to imagine a new world. Imagining a new world asks for us to dream into existence what is better, even if we cannot fully see or understand it yet.

“Many of our students will need to practice radical hope to persevere the long journey to get their Ph.D. They will need to practice self-advocacy to remind administrators that they deserve access to an equitable education.”

Xiong said that she is settling in well at NMU and looks forward to developing a more comprehensive understanding of the university.

“From what I have experienced, I can guess why students choose NMU. The faculty is outstanding. They are true educators at heart. I'm awed by their dedication to teaching, mentorship and research. NMU is a small university, yet I believe its education and access to exceptional faculty rivals those at R1 [highest research activity] universities.

“The other unique thing about NMU is location. There is a special energy about being in a town that sits at the base of Lake Superior. This energy runs through the campus and the town.”

Xiong holds a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She continued her graduate studies at Michigan State University where she received a master's degree in student affairs administration.

Learn more about the McNair Scholars program here

Prepared By

Jill Vermeulen
Student Writer

Categories: Around NMU