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McNair Scholars Program

Current McNair Scholars Biographies

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Mindy Guajardo
Maribel Guevara-Myers

Name: Andrew Heppeard

Hometown: N/A

Majors: BA in English Language and Literature, and The Study of Religion

Expected Graduation Date: Spring 2017

Andrew Heppeard has studied the stories behind peoples and cultures in both of his majors, and given them perspective with his minors in Philosophy and Ethics. By examining the reflections of ethical and cultural norms in the historical contexts of these stories, as well as their perpetuation throughout generations, he seeks to help change material for K-12 curriculum as a professor of ethics in literature. His performance in the study of literature earned an invitation to Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society in his Junior year. In 2013 Heppeard served as a UNI delegate to the National Association of College and University Residence Halls conference where he presented interview preparation programs for student leaders to utilize across the globe. At UNI he has lectured to the Explorers of Religion on a number of topics, including the portrayal of European Jews in Tolkien's Dwarves, and has since become the president of the organization. Heppeard currently writes opinion columns for the Northern Iowan, which can be found at In the fall of 2015, Heppeard's linguistics professor suggested that he apply to McNair due to his lifelong economic hardships and his performance within the classroom.

Name: Margarita Meza

Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Major: Psychology, Spanish minor

Expected graduation date: Fall 2016

Margarita Meza (Hispanic) is an undergraduate student at UNI. She has conducted and published research on the topic of positive psychology merged with second language acquisition. Another area of research she is involved with is in parapsychological research dealing with precognitive ability, or the detection of random future events. After graduating, she plans to seek a PhD. in the area of positive psychology with hopes to research positive interventions and the optimization of humans’ well-being. She joined the McNair Scholars Program because of the research and preparation for graduate school opportunities it provides, experiences in her field that will be valuable for her future. Currently, she is involved as a student admissions ambassador, psi chi honors society, sigma delta pi honor society, and the honors program at UNI. Apart from academics, of interest is jewelry making, drawing, and reading.

Quang Nguyen

Name: Sandra Piñedo

Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Major: BS Health Promotion: Global Health Disparities and Women's Health

Expected graduation date: May 2017

Sandra Piñedo is a Health Promotion student at the University of Northern Iowa, specializing in Global Health Disparities and Women's health. Sandra transferred in the Fall of 2015 on a full tuition scholarship from Palo Alto College in San Antonio Texas. As a Mexican-American, she is passionate about serving minority populations and is grateful for all the resources that have empowered her to be successful in life, such as the McNair Scholars Program at UNI. Her research interests include maternal and infant health and preventing health complications by healthy pregnancies. Sandra is an active volunteer in the American Red Cross and a part of the Global Health Corps at UNI. She has traveled extensively to France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Hungry, Spain, Mexico and Honduras for courses and medical mission trips as a community health educator. Her ultimate goal is to work with UNICEF or UN Women for global health policy improvement. She is devoted to helping others and making this a better world.

Name: Anthony Perez

Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Major: Psychology

Expected graduation date: Spring 2017

Anthony Perez (Hispanic) is a senior studying psychology. He is interested in pursuing research around student development. After graduating from UNI Anthony is planning on attending graduate school to get a masters in student affairs and eventually his doctorate degree. Anthony joined the McNair Scholars Program because of the opportunity for support and assistance in the pursuit of his doctoral degree. He currently works as a resident assistant in an upperclassmen residence hall. In addition, he volunteers as a student admissions ambassador and assists the Office of Admission in recruiting and informing prospective students and their families. He enjoys playing paintball, hanging out with friends, and engaging in intellectually stimulating conversation over various topics.

Hilary Rawlings

Facts about the McNair Program

Discussion Panel at Stanford

  • We have had 130 scholars in the program to date. There are currently 12 undergraduates in the program.
  • Excluding the current undergrads,  112 of 117 McNair scholars have graduated from UNI, a graduation rate of 95.7%.
  • 57 scholars have gone on to graduate school (48.7%).
  • To date, we have 33 students who have earned a terminal masters degree.  We have had 3 earn a J.D. and are now practicing law.  7 former McNair students have earned a Ph.D., and 1 other received a DCM (Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine).
  • There are 13 scholars who are currently enrolled in masters or PhD programs.

Follow the links to learn more about our current students in the McNair Scholars Program, the former students involved or if you are a prospective student interested in the program.