What an absolutely marvelous Meliora Weekend! This year’s homecoming, alumni, and parents weekend coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Kearns Center and the 20th anniversary of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. The evolution of the Kearns Center and the many achievements of Kearns Scholars, McNair Scholars, and Upward Bound were celebrated throughout the weekend. Below are just a few highlights. (Please feel free to add your own observations on the Kearns Facebook page.)
The weekend kicked off with a Friday night Speed-Networking Reception co-sponsored by the Kearns Center and the Office of Minority Student Affairs. This year marked the highest participation ever in this annual event, with more than 100 alumni, undergraduates, graduate students from AS&E, Simon, and the Med Center, and faculty and staff mixing and mingling.
Some undergraduates and graduate students at the networking reception found mentor matches through the Pipeline Mentoring Program— an informal mentoring program aimed at helping undergraduates envision what life can be like and the opportunities that exist on the other side of graduation. Remember, graduating from the UR is just one step toward the next big thing in your life. Students choose Pipeline mentors based on shared interests, whatever they may be. Maybe the mentor is from the student’s hometown or maybe they both spend weekends hiking or skiing, or maybe they love horror movies or write fan fiction. Pipeline mentors are not academic mentors or direct connections for future jobs— instead, the program is a pipeline to a listening ear from someone who has “been there and done that.” (Undergraduates interested in mentors or graduate students interested in mentees should contact Dr. Sinclair-Chapman.) Remember, graduating from the UR is just one step toward the next big thing in your life.
Saturday morning started bright and early with a panel co-sponsored with the Warner School of Education on “Approaches to K-12 Success: The Impact of a Research University on an Urban School District.” In addition to Warner School faculty, the panel included current and former Warner students, many of whom are also UR graduates, and/or former McNair Scholars, including Anthony Plonczynski who, in addition to being all of the above, is also Associate Director of Pre-College Programs in Kearns. In the audience were local educators, education leaders, and alumni from across the country. Dr. Beth Olivares, Director of the Kearns Center, presented an overview of the many ways that the Center interacts with students and schools in the Rochester City School District through Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math/Science, which serve over 125 Rochester City School District students, and two College Preparatory Centers that encourage college-bound students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The presentations were followed by a spirited discussion that participants would have gladly continued all morning, had time allowed.
Next on the Saturday agenda was the annual Celebration of Diversity Luncheon. Following comments from Board Member Lance Drummond and UR Vice Provost Vivian Lewis, Dr. Olivares delivered a keynote address that highlighted the Kearns Center’s mission and contributions to the UR and greater Rochester communities. The room was filled with current students, alumni, and parents enjoying good food and great conversation. It was indeed a celebration and perfect venue for honoring the Kearns Center’s first decade.
The day wrapped up with the annual College Diversity Roundtable Celebration. Posters of Kearns Center students were scattered around the room and a slide show of students presenting their work played on a big screen behind the podium while students, alumni, and guests enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres. Kearns alumni described how their experiences as Kearns or McNair scholars helped prepare them for the rigors of graduate school. Dean Feldman discussed the accomplishments of the Kearns Center and the McNair program over the last two decades, noting Beth’s tireless work to diversify the academy from pre-college, college, and graduate programs through the faculty ranks. The evening concluded with the Kearns Center staff surprising Beth with an award for her many years of visionary service. If you get the chance, stop by the Kearns Center to congratulate her—and the staff—on reaching these twin milestones.
Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Ph.D.