McNairs Scholars

Rebecca Mercado Thornton, ’08

Assistant Professor at Oakland University

When Rebecca Mercado Thornton, ’08, reflects on her experience in the 2007 McNair Scholars Program cohort, she says it was as much about the growth of her research skills as it was the growth of her individual person.

“The experience is about testing your work ethic and character — are you willing to endure a bit of struggle to bring you closer to your dream profession?” Rebecca said.

During her time at Central Michigan University, Rebecca studied communication, Spanish and sociology. Now, as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Oakland University, she says without the McNair experience she would have never had the confidence to pursue and earn her doctoral degree from Ohio University — a milestone that led to her employment with OU as a tenure-track professor.

“At other institutions, both in the U.S. and worldwide, undergraduate students have to write a thesis in order to finish their undergraduate degree,” Rebecca said. “That is the world in which we are competing. So, to have written an original research manuscript prepared me to compete with international students with advanced degrees in my doctoral program.”

Rebecca says being a McNair Scholar helped her grow professionally by giving her opportunities she might not have received otherwise.

“McNair gifted me with experiences I never had growing up in a working class, Mexican-American family,” Rebecca said. “Every summer I drive up to CMU and talk to the current scholars about my doctoral experiences. I love it. I am forever grateful to the McNair program.”