"When I came to DePaul, I felt really comfortable and knew that I was at home."
"College was always a natural next step after high school for me — it was never an option, never a thought about not going. My parents were always supportive of me going to graduate school, too. In high school, I did theatre. Then I took Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science, fell in love with it and it changed my whole life. But I had always looked at DePaul for college for the Theatre School. I loved Chicago and had always wanted to go out of state for college, so I decided to attend DePaul.
"When I was applying to colleges, I had two older brothers who were in college at that time who gave me a lot of support, but they actually didn't finish college. I had a brother who just had one year of school to finish, and he still left — he was just one year from a completely different life, but he still left. I know I could never leave school without a degree — it's just not in my mindset.
"When I came to DePaul, I felt really comfortable and knew that I was at home. DePaul's mission for inclusiveness, diversity, respect, to understand the issues of our times in society and the attempts to address those issues is real. I'm a service scholar, so I see this all the time.
"My resident advisor my freshman year was a McNair scholar, but I didn't really know what that meant as a freshman, especially since I couldn't be in the program until I was a junior. My scholarship coordinator even told me to go look into joining McNair. But during my sophomore year, I really started thinking about graduate school. I was talking to a good friend who is in the program, and I really got interested in it. Two of my other good friends and I all applied together — we formed a community of support."
"McNair has given me a roadmap to success."
"My experience in McNair has been really awesome. There is just so much that I didn't know about preparation for graduate school. The program has really given me a roadmap to success and has streamlined the process to getting to graduate school. It was a fuzzy process before. Making time to focus on graduate school now versus cramming it in during the fall of my senior year makes all the difference. I have a plan now.
"There is a summer research opportunity that is my absolute number one choice — I want to go there for graduate school potentially, and I like the faculty — it seems perfect. The McNair director said that the program could send me to visit the program to find out more and even find former scholars at the school for me to visit. The staff were really supportive. A few days ago, I found out that I got in, and I wanted to tell the staff! At the moment, I realized that I wanted to tell my family — my McNair family — I didn't even really realize how important they were to me. I would never have heard about participating in summer research programs without McNair."
"The idea that I could impart and create knowledge has changed because of McNair."
"I want to go to graduate school right after I finish at DePaul and pursue a dual career. I want to go back to Louisiana to work on the Gulf Coast to restore the wetlands. I want to do both government work and environmental nonprofit work. But I also want to teach as a faculty member at a university. Before McNair, I would have never thought of teaching at a professional level. I thought that I would just work in my career — but the idea that I could impart and create knowledge has changed because of McNair."
Nia graduated DePaul in 2014 and is now a Board of Reagents Fellow at Louisiana State University, pursuing a master's degree in oceanography and coastal science.