McKearn Fellows

Northern Illinois University

McKearn Fellows

The McKearn Summer Fellows Program promises to be a transformative experience that will not only enrich your NIU baccalaureate experience but also lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

Ken Barnett

Ken Barnett

Major: Pre-Physical Therapy

Mentor: Amanda McCarthy, Assistant Professor, Allied Health & Communicative Disorders

Year: Junior

Hometown: Joliet, IL

Project: “What’s the Difference”: Identifying Predictors of Inclusive Teaching Strategies Among University Faculty in STEM Fields

Bio: Ken Barnett is a junior, University Honors student, majoring in Pre-Physical Therapy. He was born in Minnesota, but grew up in Joliet, Illinois, with his mother and two siblings. His short-term goal is to earn his BS in Health Sciences. He was motivated to pursue his chosen program of study because of an overriding personal interest in learning about how the body functions and its abilities to heal itself, especially after sustained injuries. He was also a physical therapy patient after having suffered an injury playing sports and a subsequent knee operation. He feels that the most important facet of his studies has been the focus (both in class and through co-curricular activities) on disability, with its concurrent discussion on attitudes and stereotypes surrounding individuals with disabilities. Ken’s McKearn Fellows project will focus on the attitudes that collegiate-level faculty hold regarding disabilities to determine if there is a correlation between the attitude of a faculty member and the opportunities for a student with a disability to gain accommodations.

Leadership Statement: For me the highest value of being a leader is being honest. If all that ever escapes from one’s mouth are lies, then what does that say about the supposed relationship that has been established? I would have to say that what makes me distinct as a leader is my ability to speak my mind openly.

Blog Link: http://kennethbarnett14.wordpress.com

E-portfolio site: https://sites.google.com/a/students.niu.edu/mckearn-summer-fellow-2014/

Shekinah Bergmann

Shekinah Bergmann

Major: Industrial & Systems Engineering, Law

Mentor: Behrooz Fallahi, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Year: Junior

Hometown: Sycamore, IL

Project: Application of Hoeken and Pantograph Linkage for a Walking Device

Bio: Shekinah Bergmannis a sophomore, majoring in Industrial Systems Engineering with an Applied Math minor, and a University Honors student. She is the oldest of six siblings, enjoys long runs, lighting design, ice cream, and Noodles & Company. She always thought that she would end up in the arts; designing coins at the US mint or concert sets as a lighting technician, but developed a strong interest in math and science. For her final year of high schools she was dually enrolled at Kishwaukee College taking engineering classes, where she discovered a love of STEM fields as well. She chose Industrial Engineering because of a fascination with complex systems (institutions, businesses, hospitals) and designing new processes to make them more efficient. She is enrolled in a five year program at NIU to receive a B.S. in engineering and J.D. degree in law. With this unique combination of technical and legal knowledge, she plans to become a patent attorney and hopes to work someday for the USPTO in Washington D.C. This summer, she will design a robot as well as a simulation program to study the gait of a walking mechanism.

Leadership Statement: I highly value trust, accountability, and goals. Trust enables my group members to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses so that I can delegate the right tasks. Even the best-intentioned group members can become distracted. Thus, accountability is vital. In the same respect, commonly known goals unify the team and serve as bench-marks to celebrate.

Blog Link: http://shekinahmckearn.wordpress.com/

E-portfolio site: https://sites.google.com/a/students.niu.edu/bergmann_sg/

Zachary Howard

Zachary Howard



Major: Biological Sciences

Mentor: Barrie Bode, Chair and Professor, Biological Sciences

Year: Junior

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Project: Testing the Effects of Glutamine Metabolic Inhibitors in Subclasses of Native and Transporter-silenced Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells

Bio: Zachary Howard is a junior majoring in Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University and is a University Honors student. He plans on attending medical school after he receives his undergraduate degree. He chose biology as a major owing to the complexity of life, which amazes him. He notes, “I want to find out as much as I can about the process of life. I believe biology is one of the best majors to prepare me for medical school. To be honest, I love all science: biology, chemistry, and physics, because I think it is incredible how far the human race has come, to be able to understand the fundamental forces of nature and harness them to produce technology such as electricity, medicines, and surgical procedures.” He has been most influenced by the study of genetics because it is the biological “blueprint” for all of life as we know it. His proposed project, studying potential treatment options for Hepatocellular Carcinoma, is part of a long-standing series of experiments and advances on campus, and is a great start for his future medical studies and the transition into a career in medicine.

Leadership Statement: Being a great leader is not about how well you can command others, but about how much you believe in your own cause, no matter what it is. The most important characteristics a leader can have are optimism, perseverance, willingness to do whatever it takes, and the bravery to take risks. These values are important to me because they reinforce not being afraid to fail, and not being afraid to do what you believe in.

Blog Link: http://z1688374.wordpress.com/

E-portfolio site: https://sites.google.com/a/students.niu.edu/zack-howard-s-portfolio/

Rachel Lapidus

Rachel Lapidus

Majors: Business Administration & Theater Studies

Mentor: Bart Sharp, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences & Brandon Wardell, Assistant Professor, School of Theatre & Dance

Year: Sophomore

Hometown: Sycamore, IL

Project: The Economic Effect of Theater: 3 Case Studies

Bio: Rachel Lapidus is a sophomore, University Honors student, double majoring in Business Administration and Theater Studies. She grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois and now lives in Sycamore. Rachel discovered her passion for theater at an early age through school plays and drama classes. Her aptitude for business and innovation also came early on when she experimented with business ideas as a youth, even organizing and running her own summer-time businesses. It was once she reached high school that these two fields combined. As Vice President of the her school's Thespian Troupe she both performed and orchestrated the group’s financial side through events and fundraisers. When it came time to choose a major, it was a no-brainer. Rachel hopes to eventually run her own theater company, which is the genesis for her McKearn Fellows project that will call for her to investigate both the financial and artistic operational models of theater companies.

Leadership Statement: There are certain qualities that every good leader should have, and a good leader should never have to remind people that they are the leader. If a good leader is honest and has a vision to share with others, people will follow. Good leaders lead by example.  To do this, a leader must have a strong set of values that they live by and share with others. A good leader strives to be a role model and mentor for the people they work with.

Blog Link: http://rachellapidus.wordpress.com/

E-portfolio site: https://sites.google.com/a/students.niu.edu/rachelrebeccalapidus/

Lexie Williams

Lexie Williams

Major: Nursing

Mentor: Nancy Castle, Director and Professor, Center for Non-Governmental Organizational Leadership & Development

Year: Junior

Hometown: Stillman Valley, IL

Project: Assessing Nursing Students’ Implicit Associations Toward Disability and Age

Bio: Lexie Williams is a junior, nursing major from Stillman Valley, Illinois. She is both a University Honors student and a University Honors Fellow. She was inspired to pursue nursing after participating in a year-long CNA program, co-sponsored by her high school and Rockford Memorial Hospital. She finds nursing attractive because she is inspired to provide comfort and assistance to a wide variety of patients and is positively challenged by the quick pace and critical thinking involved. Her ultimate career goal is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). She believes that the most important facet of her studies has been the hands-on experience provided through NIU's nursing simulation lab. She notes: “I think it's important to be exposed to patient care as early as possible, in order to maximize the student's level of comfort when they actually begin taking care of patients.” Her proposed McKearn project will center on a topic developed through her minor, Deafness Rehabilitation, and she will be surveying NIU nursing students to gauge their disposition towards disabled persons compared to geriatric persons, using the Implicit Association Test, a world-wide learning tool developed by Harvard.

Leadership: As a leader, my highest value is collaboration with the whole team so I’m leading them to the best of my ability. I value leaders with a sense of humor, creativity, and good communication. Five ways people would describe my leadership style are: able to communicate efficiently, humorous to keep things light, committed to working hard and producing quality results, creative when new methods need to be generated, and effective/compelling to keep my group working productively together.

Blog Link: http://lexiewilliams.wordpress.com/

E-portfolio site: https://sites.google.com/a/students.niu.edu/mckearn-fellow-2014/