Select Page

Returning to college after years away has afforded University of Wisconsin Oshkosh secondary education English major Stacey Sparks, of Neenah, a multitude of new experiences, caring intellectual mentors and the opportunity to take part in a McNair Scholar research project that’s close to her heart.

Sparks was among the 13 UWO students to present their research findings last week at the 11th-annual Ronald E. McNair Scholars Fall Showcase.

“We were there to celebrate our faculty-student mentor relationship and collaborative research on influential indicators of student behaviors outside of the Head Start program,” said Yoko Mogi-Hein, a senior lecturer of teaching and learning with the College of Education and Human Services.

Stacey Sparks

“Stacey is a first generation, non-traditional student whom I sponsored to take on this McNair pathway to a doctoral program in lieu of becoming a high school English teacher. We hope to maintain our relationship throughout the next five to six years to see her achieve her goal.”

Since her four young children are now all in school, Sparks decided last fall that it was time to return to college. Her youngest child is enrolled in Head Start, which turned out to be an interesting coincidence when McNair program director Cordelia Bowlus recommended that she focus on Head Start data for her research.

Besides Mogi-Hein, Sparks also was mentored by Michael Jasinski, a UWO associate professor of political science.

“For the research, we looked at community socioeconomic indicators and student social emotional variation within Head Start,” Sparks explained.

Head Start, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program, promotes school readiness of children under 5 through education, health, social and other services.

Their work suggested an unexpected relationship: the more individuals in a community with bachelor’s degrees, the higher the likelihood of social-economic concerns for Head Start students. The preliminary results indicate further verification and study.

“I have been reflecting much on how grateful I am for people and communities that wish to mutually support and encourage in diverse environments,” Sparks said. “I truly believe we are so much better when we share rather than compare our stories and encourage each other to branch out in new directions and reach towards new goals we might have not thought possible. Community matters.”

The following UWO students also took part in the 2019 McNair showcase with their faculty mentors:

  • Angel Camacho, senior accounting major from Kenosha, with Benjamin Artz, presented “Cornell Note-Taking Method.”
  • Riley Drechsler, a junior anthropology major from Wisconsin Rapids, with Adrienne Frie, presented “Gender and Social Stratification and Grave Good Variety at Magdalenska gora.”
  • Megan Elger, a senior communications major from Hartford, with Kristi Wilkum, presented “Parent-Child Estrangement and Social Support Messages.”
  • Joy Evans, a senior environmental health major from Milwaukee, with Juliana Kahrs, presented “Food Insecurity Among Racially Minoritized College Students and Associated Health Risk Factors.”
  • Elias Flor Martinez, a junior biology major from Menasha, with Jessica Lucas, presented “Genetic Evidence for Involvement of Microtubules in Stomatal Movement.”
  • Malykee Hall, a senior biology major from Oshkosh, with Sabrina Mueller-Spitz, presented “Variation in Biofilm Formation Reflects Population Divergence of Deinococcus aquatics.”
  • Rachel McKay, a senior biology major from Jackson, with Robert Mitchell, presented “The Family of Odorant Binding Proteins in the Western Corn Rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera.”
  • Alicia Obermeier, a senior human services major from Appleton, with Jerry Thomas, presented “LGBTQ, Not LGBTF and Voices Behind It: A Semantic Study.”
  • Brenna Prieto, a senior psychology major from Sheboygan, with Justyna Olszewska, presented “Logo Familiarity and Memory Distortions.”
  • Mia Wilson, a senior political science major from Milwaukee, with Heidi Nicholls, presented “The Experiences of Students of Color at Predominantly White Institutions.”
  • Aubrey Wzientek, a senior kinesiology major from Marengo, Illinois, with Brian Wallace, presented “Upper Extremity Kinematics in Softball Batting: Comparing Stationary Tee Versus Front Toss.”
  • Doua Xiong, a junior biology major from Wausau, with Morgan Churchill, presented “Temporalis Muscle Size and Diet in Odontocete Whales.”

UW Oshkosh is one of only 187 institutions nationwide to offer the federally funded McNair Program, which helps students develop the skills needed to get into and succeed in graduate school.

Learn more: