McNair Scholar brings academic diversity

As an undergraduate student at the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas, Dalia Bishop developed an interest in social justice.

Today, as a McNair Scholar and first-year graduate student in American Studies at Lehigh, Bishop is working to provide a voice for the marginalized.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a government-funded program founded in honor of Ronald E. McNair, an African-American physicist who was killed in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion. The program gives funding to low-income, first-generation college students or students from underrepresented ethnic groups to pursue doctoral degrees.

As an undergraduate, Bishop worked with transgendered people in Washington, D.C. As a McNair Scholar, she studies the underground African-American, urban, lesbian “stud” culture.

When she applied for graduate school, Bishop looked for a school near areas convenient for her research with faculty members who could advise her on writing an ethnography, a study and description of human cultures, about stud culture.

“I need training before I can write an ethnography,” Bishop says. “I looked for faculty I could work with, and I knew that Lehigh is near D.C., New York, and Philadelphia, which are hubs for my research.”
With commitment, anything is possible

Her desire to be a representative for social justice was reinforced at the University of the Incarnate Word.

“I want to help those who are marginalized,” she says. “I want to give them a voice on their own terms, and I can’t really start without talking to people.”

“Dalia brings an interesting perspective,” says Edward Whitley, associate professor of English and director of American Studies. “She came in knowing the major players, her undergraduate work already graduate quality.”

Bishop is one of Lehigh’s first McNair Scholars. Henry Odi, vice provost for academic diversity, is attempting to expand program here.

“My interest is to explore how Lehigh can play a larger role in the McNair Scholars program,” he says.

Making connections is the most important aspect of a good school support system, says Odi, adding that there needs to be a bridge between undergraduate and graduate students, and between students and faculty.

“Healthy conversation leads to greater academic success,” he says.

“We are trying to attract excellence and diversity to Lehigh. Programs such as the McNair Scholars program bring a broad perspective of students from all different backgrounds. Dalia’s experience will be valuable to her and to Lehigh.”

Bishop feels honored to have been chosen as a McNair Scholar and believes the program is a reflection of the life of McNair.

“McNair was chosen for the Challenger from thousands of qualified astronauts. If you want something badly, go for it, commit, regardless of the outcome.

“The McNair Scholar program allows you to do anything.”