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April 23, 2014 — If ever a student exemplifies the goals of the McNair Scholars Program, it is Josh Heyer, a University of Wyoming student from Windsor, Colo., who will graduate this spring with a triple major in geography, environment and natural resources, and Spanish.
Along the way, he has earned numerous honors for his academic accomplishments, including selection as an EPSCoR Fellow and as a student speaker at the UW College of Arts and Sciences Honors Convocation, and as one of the college’s top graduating seniors.
To top it off, he is the only UW student this year to be awarded a National Science Foundation Research (NSF) Fellowship, one of the nation’s most highly competitive awards for graduate studies. It offers, among other things, a three-year annual $32,000 stipend; a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance; and international research and professional development opportunities.
Heyer credits McNair Scholars Program administrators Zackie Salmon and Susan Stoddard for helping build his foundation for success. The McNair program prepares promising undergraduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education to enter and complete a doctoral degree program. Services include a research internship, mentoring from UW faculty members, academic support and tutoring, and assistance with the graduate school application process.
Heyer qualified for the McNair program as a first-generation college student, as neither of his parents hold a college degree.
“Zackie and Susan have pointed me in the right direction, which has allowed me to network with various individuals on campus,” Heyer says. “During my McNair internship, I learned how to write research proposals, write research manuscripts and prepare for graduate school.”
Salmon and Stoddard were not the only ones who helped Heyer achieve his academic goals. UW Department of Geography faculty members J.J. Shinker, associate professor, and Tom Minckley, assistant professor, also provided outstanding mentorship, Heyer says.
“J.J. has guided me during my undergraduate research and has been an amazing mentor during both my McNair and EPSCoR internships,” he says. “Dr. Minckley has been very helpful, assisting me in my research as well as employing me during the summer working in his lab.”
“Josh has excelled in both the McNair Scholars Program and Wyoming EPSCoR, from the initial proposal design to acquiring data, learning analyses and mapping tools, and completing the research by submitting a manuscript to a peer-review journal,” says Shinker, who mentored Heyer in both projects. “Josh has seamlessly integrated skills from his majors to identify and understand the causes and impacts of drought along the U.S. and Mexico border. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such a great student and look forward to seeing his career grow.”
Others cited by Heyer for their support and guidance are Carl Legleiter, geography assistant professor; UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources lecturers Maggie Bourque and Courtney Carlson; and UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages faculty members Emily Hind and Kevin Larsen.
About the NSF Fellowship
More than 2,000 students received fellowships from among more than 14,000 applicants for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships this year. Heyer’s award is through the Geosciences-Climate and Large-Scale Atmospheric Dynamics unit.
The program ensures the vitality and diversity of America’s scientific and engineering workforce by supporting outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF's mission.
Heyer has accepted a graduate assistantship at the University of Utah, where he will research how climate mechanisms -- in the atmosphere and at the surface -- control drought conditions in arid environments. After completing his master of science degree, he plans to use NSF support to apply at universities in several Spanish-speaking countries to begin work on his Ph.D. degree.
Josh Heyer is the only University of Wyoming student to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship this year.