"I don't know where I'd be if I wasn't in McNair."
"I'm originally from Calumet City, Ill., but I went to a boarding high school in Wisconsin. It really prepared me in many ways. I was exposed to many different cultures; this helped me gain perspective on things and the school provided a lot of structure, which helped me a lot. After high school, I went to DePaul for a year and went back to the high school for a year to work to save some money and save money on general education courses. Then I came back to DePaul to finish a business degree in marketing. I went into business because I just thought that it would help me make money.
"One of my professors at the school in Wisconsin told me about the TRIO McNair Scholars Program and that I should apply. I looked into the program at DePaul, applied and I got in. I'm so glad that I did because I don't know where I'd be if I wasn't in McNair. When I first applied to McNair, I really didn't know anything about the program or what a PhD was. I thought the program was just for graduate degrees in general. When I found out what a PhD was, I found out that a lot of PhD programs waived tuition and paid a lot for their students. That was a big incentive and made me more interested in earning a PhD."
"McNair helps me probably more than I even know."
"I had no clue what academic research was. I remember when I did my first summer research program; I had some difficulty reaching out to mentors. I didn't want to bother them. But I learned to be proactive with my education. I don't feel like I'm being a burden anymore, and I think positively about how to go about what I want and need. Socially, a lot of times I don't know how to word emails or navigate certain social situations so I can go about it in the right way and in a professional manner. McNair has been a help financially, too. From the summer research program at DePaul to paying for GRE test preparation to travel to conferences."
"Having the support of McNair really changed my life."
"The PhD to me represents freedom, intellectually. I never would have imagined that you could have a job and get paid to think about what you want to think about. It also has a social justice factor to me. I didn't want to really go into marketing and force-feed people products they don't need. But I really want to make an impact on low-income consumers that can directly benefit their lives. I'm not sure how right now, but I want to conduct research around improving low-income consumers' spending habits and the conditions in which they are spending. I will get to study what I want and get paid for it. And that's awesome.
"My career goal is to be a tenure-track professor that will provide a lot of freedom for me, financially and time-wise. And make sure my family is taken care of. I'm most proud of the drive I have to succeed for my family. Just from what my doctoral fellowship is paying me, I will be the lead income earner in my family. I feel great about that. They never make me feel like I owe them, but I want to do well, and I'm proud of having that drive to make sure that they are OK."
Robert graduated from DePaul in spring 2013 and is currently earning a doctorate degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.