You might recognize Ereisa Morales from McNair’s website. You also might recognize her from posters around campus. She is holding a book about drug use, and a tape recorder, ready to document, survey, and research. What is she researching?
Morales is a McNair Scholar. She is also a part of a sorority on campus, and participates in numerous volunteer activities such as Second Harvest. She is a TA for Dr. Aguilar, who happens to be her mentor. Dr. Aguilar teaches race and culture studies, was the academic advisor for McNair last year (2017-2018), and created Transformation Tuesday, where underrepresented and marginalized voices can be expressed and heard at The Mason Jar every third Tuesday. A double major in sociology and criminal justice, Morales knows the definition of hard work and stamina. If it sounds like she does a lot, it’s because she does.
Yet, in all of the tasks, Morales comes off energetic and ready to tackle the next paper, study or discussion. The bulk of her time now is focusing on graduate school applications. That means long hours pouring over requirements, sending GRE test scores, crafting a better CV, and revising again and again her written work. The process is long, but she feels confident in her chances of getting into a prestigious university because of how important her research is, for both academia and her community in Yakima.
Morales’s research is about drug addiction within Latinx families and adolescents. In order to understand the why in terms of drug addiction, she had to review literature. Then she sought approval of an IRB to conduct an interview of a Latina who grew up using drugs. The interview consisted of many leading questions to allow the Latina to open up about why, how, and when addiction occurred. One such question starts off as, “How is it that you feel now if you’re still using?” These answers were then transcribed and used to formulate a thematic analysis. Morales is working on finishing up this manuscript so that she can send it to a journal for publication.
This research is important in understanding why drug addiction happens to adolescents in Latinx communities. In doing so, Morales has the opportunity to explore, find answers, and provide valuable information to better those communities across the state and country. With the help of McNair Scholar Program, the Sociology Department, and her mentor, Dr. Aguilar, her research has significant amount of support. In the near future, Morales hopes to be a professor in sociology and mentor students who have come from underrepresented background.
We all know that college students struggle. They struggle with classes, assignments and tests. One can remember the long hours in the library cramming over books in pools of soft light from the rows of lamps, students half asleep, mindlessly present in the real world, fully involved in the world rendered in their minds. That’s what it is like, right? That is the atmosphere at JFK library on campus here in Cheney? Or is that some Hollywood scene. Either way, students fight to stay ahead of the academic agenda. Often, though, college students struggle withmore outside the class room that can cause academic hurdles: food.
Kianna Baker, McNair Scholar, and Dr. Okera Nsombi, her McNair Mentor, have spent the summer doing their Summer Research Internship here at Eastern on food insecurity. What does that mean? It means, according to Baker’s poster, which she presented at the 6th Annual Black Doctoral Network Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this quarter, “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” While this may not seem like a surprise to fellow college students, champions of ramen and cereal with water as meals, it is surprising when Baker and Dr. Okera Nsombi delved deeper into the why. Why is it, that college students, especially Students of Color (SoC), students who receive financial aid, and students that work, face a higher percentage of food insecurity? That was the question, and after reading dozens of articles surrounding the issue, Baker proposed that there might be a link between food insecurity of college students and those who grew up in a food insecure household.
With the help of Dr. Okera Nsombi, who is a highly respected professor of Africana Studies and has taught numerous classes all over the country, Baker was able to produce a survey with IRB approval, to ask students about their food insecurity. She had over 300 student responses. From this survey, “36 percent of EWU students have worried about running out of food.” Not only that, but, “71 percent of EWU students know someone who does not have enough food.” This shows the extent of our community’s food insecurity.
Perhaps Baker’s biggest impact from her research is that this can become evidence that living or growing up in a household that suffers from food insecurity can predict food insecurity in college. Not to mention how this can impact the community by raising awareness about the link between food insecurity and lower GPA.
Through the help and guidance of Dr. Okera Nsombi, McNair, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, EWU Office of Community Engagement and EWU Health, Wellness, & Preventive Services, Baker has truly engaged with the local community here to support her research. Her research matters for SoC, low-income students, and everyone who knows the hardships of living with the fear of where and when your next meal will come.
McNair Scholar, Erik Almaguer, a computer science major in his junior year at Eastern Washington University, has been working since Spring Quarter of 2018 on his project, with the help of his mentor, Dr. Shamima Yasmin. Almaguer grew up in Kennewick, working and going to the community college there. He wasn’t too sure on what he wanted to do next. After a year or two juggling work, college, and everything else that keeps us occupied, he moved to Cheney for EWU.
Almaguer, when asked about that time of his life, said, “I came to Eastern because I wanted to try out a university. I didn’t know what to expect till I met Dr. Torres Garcia who guided me by providing different resources through the university. McNair gave me a job opportunity as a web designer.”
That was the hard part: transition. Almaguer’s entrance into the McNair program was unique, since he was working at McNair’s web designer. “Getting to meet all of the students in the McNair office, and just getting to hear their stories as they were applying to grad school; it was really inspiring. It inspired me to apply to grad school.” He felt a connection with the program, and immediately applied. He was accepted.
Almaguer’s research project is about harnessing WebGL to create live 3D graphs and charts to represent data from a windmill. He’s, in essence, documenting the weather for us to examine. Over the summer, as part of his McNair Research Project, and with the guidance of
Dr. Shamima Yasmin, he joined The Alternative Energy Engineering Club. With their help, a windmill was created with weather sensors, Raspberry Pi, Arduinos, and a weather proof box to house the exposed hardware. It was an undertaking that required communications from McNair and the rest of the campus. Almaguer said, “Having the office in Patterson was pretty cool, because they wanted to help me out. Timothy Raver, he was pretty cool because he helped me find a spot that would work, and with setting up my wireless sensors.”
It is through hard work and endurance expressed by Almaguer that inspires the faculty in McNair, and throughout campus, that change can happen anywhere. His programming and 3D models have the capability to change the community at large. He’s taken his research to Hargreaves for Eastern’s Symposium, and to Pasadena, California, where he participated in the 30th HENAAC conference with other students around the country.
“Without the McNair Scholar Program, I wouldn’t have any of the opportunities to develop real world applications or work with computer graphics,” Almaguer said.
There is no limit to what our scholars can achieve. If you were to sit back and watch the weather outside, Almaguer could tell us so much more; according to his model, the wind is gusting this way.