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"You learn so much: how to write grants, how to prepare for graduate school, how to work with your research mentor. And you get the opportunity to work with others who are just like you during that year."
— Jackie Ivy

Expanding horizons

McNair Scholar spending summer at sea

As post-graduation trips go, Jackie Ivy's is a doozy: two-and-a-half months, nine countries, sailing on the Mediterranean Sea.

But the 2009 IUPUI graduate from the IU School of Liberal Arts isn't sailing for fun. Instead, she's taking full advantage of the University of Virginia's "Semester at Sea" program, a "floating university" through Aug. 22 that is giving the anthropology major and Ronald E. McNair Scholar the opportunity of a lifetime: earn 10 credits while immersing herself in other civilizations, with some community service on the side.

"It's such a great opportunity," says Ivy, who transferred from Ball State to IUPUI to take full advantage of a booming anthropology program. "I enjoy studying other cultures and societies, and IUPUI has a wonderful program that fit me perfectly." During her trip, which left from Canada and includes stops in Morocco, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and Egypt, students will enjoy "a series of cultural explorations," Ivy says. And if one of the countries features a language a student has learned, they'll "have to go out on their own, interact with the community, and immerse themselves in that culture."

Travel is nothing new to "a military child who grew up around all kinds of other cultures," she laughs. She hopes to incorporate her love of anthropology with her other big passion — international affairs — on one of the world's biggest stages: the United Nations.

"My big goal is to be a human rights officer in the United Nations," Ivy says, whose work with faculty researcher Susan Hyatt earned her publication in the December 2008 issue of Anthropology News on the controversial topic of predatory lending.

In fact, she laughs, she "likes to dream big" and wouldn't turn down the chance to run the U.N. "There are some changes that need to be made" to make the organization more responsive.

Her work with Hyatt helped her realize one of the core requirements of the Ronald E. McNair Program at IUPUI, which helps low-income, first-generation and under-represented students prepare for careers in research and teaching in higher education.

"The whole purpose of the McNair program is to give people the chance to pursue a Ph.D., in order the strengthen higher education," says Ivy. Since students are only McNair Scholars for one academic year, "there's a lot to accomplish" in a short time, she adds. "But you learn so much: how to write grants, how to prepare for graduate school, how to work with your research mentor. And you get the opportunity to work with others who are just like you during that year."

Ivy's experiences in the McNair program, started in 2003 and named for the late NASA astronaut who held multiple doctorates before his life was cut short in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, led her to share her knowledge with other IUPUI students in the Olaniyan Scholars program, another program that prominently features research.

"When I started with McNair, I didn't know much about research," Ivy says. "I just thought I'd get it behind me. But it's the best experience I've ever had; now research is my life!" Well, maybe not ALL of her life. Ivy has been an integral part of the rapid growth of the Black Student Union (BSU), and was the coordinator for the third annual Miss Red-and-Black Scholarship Pageant, in which contestants vie for a $1,000 scholarship, with funds raised by participants and BSU members.

"In three years, we've doubled our attendance," says Ivy, who adds the pageant helps contestants "learn life skills" that carry on throughout the college career and beyond. Next up for the Lawrence North High School graduate: graduate school, hopefully at Syracuse University or Ohio State, both of which have programs connecting anthropology to international affairs.