McKearn Fellows Cohort


The McKearn Fellows Program is one of the
University Honors Program’s many research opportunities for students and a grand honor for any NIU student. According to the McKearn Fellows page on NIU’s website, the program has 3 focuses: research/artistry design and effective writing skills, leadership development and civic, social, and global engagement. McKearn Fellows participate in lectures (led by NIU faculty), field trips, networking events, and are able to meet successful figures in a variety of fields. Students participating in the program must complete a project alongside a chosen NIU faculty member. The project may be a research or artistry project, a project in leadership development, or a project focusing on social, civic, and global engagement.

Senior pre-physical therapy major Ken Barnett participated in the 2014 Summer McKearn Fellows Program. He used his experience to conduct STEM research, which culminated in a project titled, “Identifying Predictors of Inclusive Teaching Strategies Among University Faculty in STEM Fields.” He set out to identify what variables would have an effect on faculty members’ willingness to adjust their curriculum to help a student succeed. He was not thrown to the wild wolves of research, however. The program helped him to develop new research skills necessary to complete his STEM research, including how to write a proposal and how to network with professionals who could help. He further developed his network and leadership skills in workshops with former NIU alums, and said he especially enjoyed a workshop that helped him to identify what type of leader he admires and aspires to be. The McKearn Fellows Program even gave Ken the power to give back when they volunteered with Camp Power, which is a local summer camp that works with kids in the DeKalb community.

Aside from the obvious benefits of developing new and necessary research and leadership skills, Ken says the program also pushed him out of his comfort zone. He feels he was not only introduced to situations outside of his comfort zone, but he was also provided with the tools to make this situation his new comfort zone. He believes he grew even more confident as a result of expanding his comfort zone and gaining new skills to approach unfamiliar situations in the future.

Applications for the program will be opening during the current semester. To learn more about becoming a McKearn Fellow, contact the University Honors Program in the Campus Life Building room 110, the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning (OSEEL) in Altgeld room 100, email, or visit the McKearn website (


-Jessica Cross


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