McNair Fellow – Sarah Leonard
Sarah Leonard was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her three younger sisters and older brother were all raised in beantown. Sarah recalls that even though her mother did not attend college, she held high academic expectations for the children. Sarah made the journey north to the University of New Hampshire because it is out of the city but close enough to trains and buses to get around. One thing that she enjoys about the university is its sense of community. "Everything you could possibly need is on campus and the people on campus are great" she says. Academic and personal freedom is her most favored aspect of the college experience. "I enjoy being able to choose classes that fit my interests and the ability to change my interest at any point."
As the family pioneer into college, Sarah has an endearing commitment to assist her siblings in their pursuit of higher education. Coming from a low-income family is tough, she notes, especially with three in college, but her mother works three jobs to ensure they have the best. "My siblings and I are very thankful for the educational opportunities we receive" Sarah says. And, Sarah is particularly thankful to have been a two-time recipient of the Donovan Family Retention Scholarship administered by the UNH TRIO directors.
Because of her academic promise exhibited as a Rising Scholar in the federally funded TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) Program in the Center for Academic Resources, Sarah was referred to the McNair Scholars Program. A senior psychology student, Sarah's long term goal is to become a professor and researcher. Therefore, graduate school is a necessity in her pursuit of her research and professional interests in psychology. Sarah expressed that the trek to earn the coveted Ph.D. is personally noteworthy because she will be the first person in her immediate and extended family to go to graduate school.
In the summer of 2008, Sarah took a trip to the windy city of Chicago to explore graduate programs and meet with faculty in her field. She credits the McNair Program with enabling her to learn about graduate schools more in depth. Sarah believes that the program gave her the opportunity to discover that she really wants to pursue a career in research. Further, she says that McNair provides her the experiences that will strengthen her application to graduate schools. In all the benefits of McNair, Sarah prizes one above all others:
I value my research experience the most. Conducting research in the same manner as a professional in the field of psychology has been both fun and challenging. I am looking forward to continuing my research into the fall.
As a person of passion, Sarah commits her whole self to those endeavors she finds worthwhile. For extra-curricular involvement, she founded Giovanni's Team, a student organization that promotes and hosts bone marrow drives throughout the year. Sarah now serves the group as its president. She also tutors for the SSS Program. Sarah's advice to new students is to "try new things and approach faculty in your search for a research topic and a mentor. Try to get things in on time but don't give up if it seems like the work is endless. It all pays off in the end."