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McNair Scholars Program

McNair Scholars 2016-17

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Jennifer Balcazar

Jennifer Balcazar was born in Manhattan, N.Y. and moved to Apex, N. C. at the age of seven. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in allied health at The University of Southern Mississippi, where she is a member of the Honors College, a Kennard Scholarship recipient, and treasurer of the Spanish Society. Balcazar served as a medical technician in the United States Air Force, and as a veteran she provides care for patients as an emergency medical technician in Harrison County, Miss. She is currently researching the relationship between maternal leave policies and infant mortality by investigating global policies and local practices, and plans to earn her Ph.D. in health science so that she can work in an academic setting while practicing as a physician’s assistant.

“Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion” -Simon Sinek

Andrea Briscoe

Andrea J. Briscoe is a senior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in forensic science with an emphasis in chemistry and biochemistry. Her research focuses on the synthesis of alpha-substituted ethers via a one pot reduction of esters. Briscoe plans to earn a doctorate degree in pharmacy.

My goal is to open a pharmacy in my community and provide affordable medication for all those in need.

Jamion Burney 

Jamion Burney is a senior psychology major and a child and family studies minor at The University of Southern Mississippi. His research involves understanding ethnic identity and its influence on the lives of African Americans. Burney plans to obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

My goal is to help individuals within the African-American community understand, develop and establish a healthy sense of self through ethnic identity, providing a launch pad for success. I believe that the successful attainment of ethnic identity will help eradicate many of the problematic ideologies that plague our community.

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Quenton Lorenzo Gilmore

Quenton Lorenzo Gilmore is a junior at the University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in sociology with a minor in biology. His research interest includes removing social barriers that can affect society at a micro and macro-level. Quenton plans on earning a doctorate in sociology.

I have seen the discrimination in our society. Our race-relations need to improve for us to progress as a society. I want my research to help people connect, understand, and relate to each other without racial barriers.

Kimberly Grubbs

Kimberly Grubbs is a junior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in speech-language pathology with a minor in Spanish. Her primary focus is on increasing resources for people with cochlear implants and who are hard of hearing. Grubbs plans to earn a clinical doctorate in
speech-language pathology with the end goal of opening a clinic designed to provide services to low-income families.

As a speech-language pathologist, I hope to begin a nonprofit organization to provide appropriate speech therapy for low income families who cannot afford therapy outside of a school setting.

Corai Jackson

Corai Jackson is a junior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in psychology with a minor in management. She is also working to earn a leadership certificate through the leadership certificate program. Her research involves determining whether current appraisal or evaluation of mothers affect the way that emotions toward mothers are remembered. Jackson intends to earn a Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology.

My career goal is to help large corporations who are suffering from internal or external issues. I want to travel the country, transforming major companies and businesses. Whether it be through leadership and hiring trainings or data analysis to pinpoint the cause of decreased product sales or productivity, I want to make a difference in my field.

Tiffiney Jones

Tiffiney C. Jones is a senior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in psychology with a strong interest in pursuing a degree in nursing. Her research interests include parents’ expectations of children diagnosed with autism disorder—more specifically, the independence and social and academic achievements of children with autism. Jones plans to obtain her Ph.D. in psychology with hopes of becoming a school psychologist.

My dream is to provide groundbreaking and revolutionary research that will impact autism and other disorders and to bring awareness of these disorders to underrepresented communities. My goal is to provide services and educate future generations so that they can reach their full potential in all aspects of life.

Ja’Marvae Lard

Ja’Marvae A. Lard is a senior vocal performance major at The University of Southern Mississippi. His research focuses on African-American contributions to classical music. Lard’s ambitions include obtaining a Doctorate of Musical Arts and performing at the Metropolitan Opera House.

My dream is to perform at major opera houses around the world. I hope to transform racial climates through music.

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Tayla McKinney

Tayla McKinney is a senior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in speech pathology and audiology within the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences. She is currently researching the existing perspectives of African-American Vernacular English and code-switching among southern college students. McKinney is highly fascinated with various subjects relating to her desired field of study. Her broad scope of research interests ranges from the significance of early intervention and the understanding of childhood language and Autism Spectrum Disorders to the effects of traumatic brain injury and aging on speech production. McKinney aspires to obtain a master’s degree in communicative sciences and disorders and ultimately her Ph.D. 

As a speech-language pathologist, my ultimate goal will be to start my own practice providing therapy centered on the idea that placing emphasis on a child’s unique interests and skills is an important aspect in learning. When people ask, “what do you do?” I want to be able to respond by saying, “Whatever it takes!”

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”

–Ignacio Estrada

Sidney Smith

Sidney Smith is a senior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in social work and minoring in psychology. Smith’s research focuses on the relationship of spirituality and faith in recovery from all forms of addiction by comparing the differences in standard 12-step programs with those that are faith-based. He plans to complete a master’s degree in social work and open his own drug and alcohol rehabilitation practice.

Being of service to others – I believe – is my life’s calling. The benefits of working with addicts and alcoholics creates a ripple effect, bringing help and healing to families, businesses, and communities.


Teneala Spencer

Teneala Spencer is a junior at The University of Southern Mississippi double majoring in computer science and Spanish with a minor in mathematics. Her research focuses on correcting machine translation errors between English and Spanish. Spencer intends to earn a Ph.D. in engineering and applied science.

Upon the completion of graduate school, I would like to work in the field of computer engineering in hopes of creating technology that will advance how we communicate with each other across languages.

Danicqua Stephens

Danicqua Stephens is a junior at The University of Southern Mississippi, majoring in communication studies. Her research explores immediacy behaviors during conflicts between intimate partners. Stephens plans to earn an MFA in acting, so that she can pursue her goal of becoming a professional actor and playwright.

I firmly believe that communication is the key factor in any type of relationship. My goal is to provide research that proves this claim within various relationships.



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