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MJ Strawbridge'19

Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program Scholar

Majors: Political Science and Media Studies
Hometown:
St. Louis, MO
Program Mentor: Dr. Rongal Watson, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Health & Society

Share a little bit about your summer as a McNair Scholar.

In reaction to the events of 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, which made national news, I investigated what progress has been made in the last 3 years in Ferguson. By analyzing the 2015 Department of Justice report as a baseline for my work, I looked to see what progress has been made in fixing the numerous issues between law enforcement and citizens of Ferguson. I explored issues such as police brutality, greed by law enforcement, and a lack of community engagement. Through the use of sources like government documents, articles, and interviews, I examined what progress has been made and what challenges were faced in realizing that progress.

What was the biggest takeaway from your experience?

Being in the McNair program, I have become very interested in public policy and continuing on to graduate school. The program has helped me realize my interest in pursuing a PhD in Political Science, while also bringing into focus my interest in getting involved with politics.

What sparked your interest in this topic?

I was a senior in high school in St. Louis, Missouri when Michael Brown was killed and the protests around the handling of his death erupted. Ferguson is a part of the community I grew up in, and I found that I shared many of the same experiences as those who were protesting. I also found that, for those people whose life experiences I could not relate to, I was very aware of their perspective. When a topic hits so close to home, it’s hard not to be curious and keep researching the situation because it’s an issue of great passion for me and it is something which I’ve seen transpire firsthand.

How did your mentor impact your experience?

Working with Ron was amazing. He was really supportive throughout the entire process. He has guided me when necessary, but also allowed me a lot of independence to figure things out for myself. He still continues to mentor me, helping me navigate the discipline, and now with applying to conferences. Ron keeps me calm and makes sure I never overwhelm myself, while also pushing me past my boundaries to assure I am having a meaningful experience.

After completing your program, what are you looking forward to most?

I hope to pursue my PhD in Political Science. I am also interested in continuing my research on Ferguson, Missouri and in the future I hope to publish my work. I have many long-term goals, including plans to become a professor, get involved with think tanks around issues I'm passionate about, and eventually to run for political office.