Welcome Amanda! Please bring us up to date on your plans for after your NMU graduation with a degree in Music Education.
After graduation, I will be spending my final summer in Marquette, enjoying the (hopefully) warm weather with friends and family. In August I will move to Oxford, Mississippi where I will pursue a Masters Degree in Music Education at Ole Miss.
Cast your mind back to when you started in the McNair Scholars Program. What were your original goals?
When I first started in the McNair Scholars Program, I was very unsure of how I fit in to the goals and workings of the program. I applied on a whim, thinking it was a long shot to even get accepted. Once I realized I was accepted, dread set in. I had no idea what I was going to do for a research project! My original goals were to conduct research on pedagogical things such as percussion rudiments. As the year went by I began reading more and more about timpani and acoustics, and finally I felt my interest spark and I realized how many doors were actually open to research in my field.
Please talk about your experience in the McNair Scholars Program.
I conducted research on the acoustics of timpani heads and mallets. With so many different heads and mallets for directors and musicians to use, it is impossible to understand what kind of sound you will create without actually “seeing” the sound. The purpose of my research was to create graphs with the frequency intensities, allowing a person to see whether a drum head or mallet created a “dark” sound, “wet” sound, etc. My mentor for this project was Dr. James Strain, Professor of Percussion at Northern Michigan University. Dr. Strain really got this project started by feeding me countless articles and books to read, forcing me to find something of interest to research. He also had all of the connections to different mallet and drum manufacturers, acquiring my research materials for zero cost.
Through the McNair Scholars Program, I have traveled to a number of different graduate schools including the University of Mississippi, University of Montana, and Montana State University. During my trek to Mississippi I took a slight detour, visiting University of Michigan and Michigan State University (both of which were unplanned, but beneficial). These graduate school visits were probably the most important aspect of the graduate school search. I originally had my heart set on the University of Montana, but after visiting I realized the goals of the music department and faculty did not match my own career goals. On the opposite end of that spectrum, I visited the University of Mississippi on a whim to please a professor, but I soon found I really enjoyed the campus, faculty, and area as a whole. As I wandered campus I felt comfortable and realized I could truly see myself as a student there.
Talk about your graduate school applications. What advice would you give to those coming up behind you? Any words to the wise? If you are comfortable sharing, tell as much as you like about where you applied and how you made your final decision to attend the Ole Miss.
I applied to five different graduate schools and was accepted to all five of them. I was accepted to Northern Michigan University for a Masters Degree in Higher Education, the University of Montana accepted me for a degree in Music Performance, and I was accepted to UW Stevens Point, Morehead State University, and University of Mississippi for degrees in Music Education. I have decided to attend Ole Miss for a variety of reasons. After my graduate school visit to the University of Montana, I quickly realized their program was not for me. I also determined that UW Stevens Point was too small and close to home (I applied as a precautionary backup). It pains me to say this because I love NMU so much, but I have decided it is time to close this chapter of my life and move away from Marquette. I have every intention of returning in the future, but I know that if I do not leave now, I will never leave. I can always come back to the university and community I have grown to call home. Finally, I deviated away from attending Morehead State University solely due to funding. The university is wonderful and I know I would enjoy the community, especially because I am friends with some of the current students and faculty. However, Ole Miss has offered me free out of state tuition and a stipend as part of my graduate assistant details. Morehead State University was only going to offer me a stipend, therefore I would be paying much more for my degree. I hate to say it boils down to money, but in a small way it does – though I know I will be plenty happy in Mississippi.
Could you talk about any personal obstacles you have overcome to get to where you are now? How did you persevere despite the obstacles in your path?
Personally, I have worked very hard to get to this point in my life. I never dreamed of going to college and now I find myself graduating with honors and attending graduate school in the fall! Neither of my parents have a college education. They worked their entire lives as farmers and factory workers with my father now disabled due to a stroke. I always imagined myself dropping out of college due to unforeseen circumstances. There was always a “worse-case scenario” playing in my head and I was sure it was going to be my reality. This is my first time coming out with this publicly, but I began to struggle heavily with depression during my junior year of college. The weight of school and my personal life became too much to bear and I considered the possibility of both changing majors and dropping out of school. It was a professor here at NMU who kept me going. He realized what was happening in my life and reached out to pull me back from the edge. I soon found myself running upwards to 10 miles a day and working with this professor to become a happier me. As I came to the deadline for deciding whether or not to attend graduate school, this professor encouraged me to continue. He reassured me that a change of scenery would increase my happiness and what I was feeling was temporary.
Would you recommend the McNair Scholars Program to others?
Overall, I would recommend the McNair Scholars Program to any and every student. It seems like a daunting program, but the assistance offered makes the entire process completely painless. I have learned so much about music, acoustics, my professors, and myself because of McNair. The program has truly changed my life for the better and I could not be more grateful.
For new or potential scholars: Never think that you aren’t good enough or smart enough to get through the McNair Scholars Program and/or attend graduate school. You don’t have to be those things (though I am sure it helps), you simply have to be determined. Nothing more.
Thank you, Amanda, and very best wishes to you!!