Her passion for learning and a desire to help others made University of Wisconsin Oshkosh junior marketing major Alexis Brown, of Chicago, curious about why she didn’t see more African American women with doctorates.
Brown’s curiosity led her to pursue research through the McNair Scholars program: “How do universities and other interested parties get and retain African American women in doctoral programs?”
Brown’s research explores how universities can make pursuing a doctorate attractive to African American women and reflects upon the reasons African American women decide to pursue a doctorate.
“I had never thought about something other than marketing before I was in the McNair Scholars program,” Brown said. “My direction in life completely changed. I now want to pursue a doctorate to go into education, serve as a mentor, do nonprofit work and eventually become a professor in higher education.”
Each year the McNair Scholars program provides research and mentorship opportunities to 25 first-generation, low-income undergraduate students or students who are underrepresented minorities to help them prepare for graduate school.
“By the end of the program these students have gained confidence in applying to graduate programs, they are focused on what programs they want to apply to and they are able to present their McNair research project at a national conference in either an oral or poster presentation,” said Mary Seaman, McNair Scholars program director and a senior lecturer in the UWO biology department.
After choosing her topic, Brown interviewed African American women who completed or were pursuing a doctoral degree and then presented her findings at the Celebration of Scholarship, an annual event at UWO showcasing student scholarly and creative works.
“McNair Scholars is a perfect bridge program for building a student’s skills in a well-rounded way,” said Norlisha Crawford, UW Oshkosh English professor, African American Studies program director and Brown’s mentor. “It’s not just about school—it’s about becoming a professional and learning how to speak in an intimate way.”
Brown credits mentoring through the McNair Scholars program for her confidence to pursue a doctoral degree. The program pairs each student with a faculty mentor who assists the student in designing and implementing a research project.
“Tish is the reason I want to work at a predominantly white institution,” Brown said. “She has given me confidence to pursue my passions. It is really encouraging to have a mentor who has already achieved the goal you want to pursue.”
That goal is to continue with her education and pursue her own doctoral degree.
“I want to be the one who didn’t stop,” Brown said.