EWU McNair Faculty Mentor Spotlight: Dr. Lindsey Upton
by Cori Jaeger, EWU McNair Program Academic Advisor
When I spoke with Dr. Lindsey Upton about being a McNair faculty mentor, it was no surprise to me that she’d been in touch with EWU McNair alumna Theresa Lee recently. Dr. Upton mentored Theresa for two summers as she researched Prisoner Reentry: College Perceptions of Reentry Barriers in a Northwest Community. As I worked with Theresa over the last two years it was clear that she felt supported by her mentor and saw Dr. Upton as someone she could reach out to anytime.
Dr. Upton is a wonderful McNair mentor. She is very hands on with mentees, as well as supportive, open-minded and dependable. I would have had a much harder time with my McNair research project as well as graduate admission if I didn’t have her. I am grateful to have found such an outstanding mentor and friend.” – Theresa Lee, EWU McNair Alumna
Theresa was accepted to 5 graduate programs and is currently attending the Bowling Green State University Sociology PhD Program with full funding. She relayed to Dr. Upton that grad school was hard but going well and she was deeply grateful for the preparation she had at EWU, especially through the McNair program and Dr. Upton’s mentorship. In fact, one of her professors at BGSU told her that they were impressed with her level of preparedness.
Dr. Upton also mentored Alexandria Coronado who was accepted to three graduate programs and is currently attending the University of Alabama’s Political Science PhD Program with full funding. Clearly Dr. Upton’s mentorship has had a powerful impact on both of these students and made a significant contribution to their competitiveness as PhD applicants. She is passionate about teaching research and service. When asked about what her experience as a mentor was like, she said,
It was a really rewarding experience to talk through scholar’s ideas once a week and facilitate their first foray into research.” - Dr. Lindsey Upton
McNair faculty mentors formally take on their mentorship in the spring supporting students as they hone in on their research topic and methodology. Then, they meet regularly with them throughout the summer as the students conduct this research and work on a high-level research paper they can submit as an example of writing for graduate school applications. The depth and rigor of this research is what helped Theresa be so well prepared.
Dr. Upton’s favorite memory of mentoring was going to the American Society of Criminology Conference with Theresa. She remembered her own first experience at a conference and how she caught the bug for research there. It was incredibly rewarding to see her scholar have that same experience and excitement as a first-generation college student. While McNair encourages and pays for students to attend conferences, not all students and mentors take up this opportunity. Fortunately, Dr. Upton helped Theresa know about and participate in this conference.
Theresa agreed that it was momentous:
The time I spent at the American Society of Criminology (ASC) conference was incredible! I attended multiple university socials and was able to converse with professors and graduate students about life at their university and research opportunities. It was interesting and helpful for me to see how professionals in the field conduct, investigate, and present their research. All in all, this experience was life changing and unbelievably enjoyable.” – EWU McNair Alumna Theresa Lee
Dr. Upton recognizes that mentoring is a commitment, but she said it was a reasonable one and the benefits are high. She indicated your main role as a mentor is to facilitate the experience. You spend about one hour a week with scholars most weeks and then a few times more than that, such as to help with a particular part of data analysis that an undergrad might not know how to do yet. Further, she noted that McNair really works to prepare students for research, academic writing, and graduate level engagement and skills. Students came to her with questions and information and took an active role in their research. McNair also provides funds for students to travel to conferences and to purchase research supplies.
McNair does a really excellent job on guiding the students through research. Students would bring such amazing questions to their meetings, questions that got deeper and deeper, and this really prepares them for the research and for graduate school. It really is a great partnership between faculty and McNair. Students would constantly reflect back and what a positive experience they were having with McNair.” – Dr. Lindsey Upton
McNair is grateful to Dr. Upton and all of our McNair faculty mentors. Without them, the program couldn’t run. They provide critical support and guidance for students as they grow their research skills. Moreover, it’s this research experience that allows many of our McNair Scholars to go straight from their undergraduate degree to a PhD program. In addition, McNair mentors often are able to find the perfect students for the program. As soon as I reached out to Dr. Upton about recruiting a new cohort of scholars she immediately said she had a few students she would encourage to participate as well as invited us to provide a promotional video and flyer she could share in her current online course. This kind of engagement is why the EWU McNair program remains strong regardless of the pandemic. This last year, even with scholars being 100% virtual for their McNair experience, we had 13 scholars apply to graduate school who collectively received 36 acceptances, many of which included funding.
This year, EWU McNair is recruiting for as many as 19 new scholars. If you are a student and you’re interested in graduate school, please complete our eligibility questionnaire or just stop in Monroe 107 and say hello! If you are faculty and would like to get involved, please nominate a student and send them our way, or email us. The success of McNair, reflected by our 41 (and growing!) scholars who’ve already attained their PhD’s, really does take a partnership between faculty, McNair, and the scholars themselves.