When I arrived at NIU as a freshman, I felt a rush of excitement about beginning the next phase of my life. I knew that I wanted to take advantage of as many opportunities as I could to make the best out of my college experience. However, I soon found out that there were way too much to get involved with; honestly it was a little overwhelming. By the end of my first few weeks into the fall semester, I had joined a few clubs, made some friends, and started to plan out how I wanted to spend the rest of my four years at NIU.
After a few trips to my advisors, I figured that I had it all planned out and I was just going to stay the course until graduation. I had heard about the McKearn Fellowship from various sources and friends, but I immediately brushed away the idea of applying for it. What I knew, or thought I knew, about the McKearn Fellowship at the time was that it was program geared towards STEM students to get as much research experience as possible. I asked myself, “What good is a research fellowship for a business major?” Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I looked into this program for myself. I discovered that I had gotten the wrong impression of the program, specifically the part that it would have no benefits to me as a business major. The McKearn Fellows program offers so much more that research opportunities such as training on how to develop your personal brand, high level networking, study abroad opportunities, alumni events, and so much more. Although I thought it was a long shot, I decided to start my application the night before it was due just see if I got in.
This past year as a McKearn Fellow has impacted my time here at NIU in ways I could have never imagined. I am surrounded by nine incredibly talented Fellows from all kinds of disciplines and backgrounds who inspire me to excel and that I am honored to call my friends. I never would have thought that I could eat dinner at the president’s house, meet with the provost and vice provost, and come in contact with successful alumni in my field through this program. In addition to the academic advancements I have made, I have also experienced significant personal growth throughout the past year. I was placed way outside my comfort zone creating and conducting my own summer research project on the topic of my choice! Over an intense six weeks of research I developed new skills and knowledge that I would not have learned had I not ventured outside of the my major’s status quo. As a result of my summer research, I now have an amazing mentor that is continuing to support and assist me as I continue on here at NIU. None of this would have been possible had I not decided to apply that fateful night. Had I not chosen to take a leap of faith, challenge myself in new ways, I would have never been able to experience all of these generous benefits offered by John and Cassandra McKearn through their fellowship. I guess you can say the moral of this story is to never underestimate what you are capable of. Don’t place arbitrary limitations on yourself like I almost did; embrace your strengths and weaknesses. Take every opportunity you can to better yourself because after all, you will never know what you can accomplish unless you try.