Congratulations to the New McNair Scholars from WGSS

Congratulations to the New McNair Scholars from WGSS

Posted on 12/13/2019

Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is thrilled to have three undergraduate WGSS majors inducted as McNair scholars this year! These students are hardworking, dedicated, and optimistic about their futures in WGSS and the McNair scholars program.


(McNair Scholars: Leila Kiandost, Rejani King, and Jessica Golden, depicted in order from left to right)

Leila Kiandost is a second year student from Greensboro, NC majoring in WGSS and minoring in International and Global Studies and American Sign Language. 

Leila applied for the McNair scholarship because “…getting a Masters degree and a PhD is something I’ve thought about a lot, especially as a QPOC who is also disabled, I am limited in what I can do and in being taken seriously and I realize having a Masters or a Phd will increase the chances of people taking me seriously.”

Leila is a first generation student and like many others, and says they “applied to college by myself, without support from my biological family. The process was long and hard and having the McNair scholarship to help me apply for graduate school has taken a lot of weight off of my shoulders. I don’t know the process and it was already hard to get into undergrad so I wondered ‘how am I going to get into grad school?’ But with the McNair scholarship it seems more realistic.”

When asked, “Why WGSS?” Leila said, “I was undecided until the second semester of my freshman year. I was really interested in WGSS as a department, so I enrolled in ‘Introduction to WGS with Carrie Hart and I fell in love with the class; the material, and the environment made me realize that this is what I am passionate about and that this is what I wanted to study. So I declared my major as WGSS. You’re not taught about queer history growing up at any level, and its so nice to have that here.”

Rejani King is a third year student from Newport News, VA, majoring in WGSS with a minor in American Sign Language.

Rejani is excited for the opportunities offered by this program. “Being a McNair Scholar is an incredible opportunity that I am truly grateful for .I hope to pursue a Doctorate in English with a specialization in Women’s and Gender Studies to expand my knowledge of how gender, race, class, culture, and sexuality affect the voices of Black women in literature, and society. I want to explore the depictions of the realities of Black womanhood, identity, home, and the embodiment of our voices (active and passive) by Black women’s writers. 

Rejani chose WGSS because, “through the WGSS program, I have been able to think critically beyond my borders in a way that has greatly influenced my academic trajectory and educational journey. I have always been a writer and WGSS helped activate my love for the idea of embodying voice and storytelling by introducing me to works from Black women and women of color. These writers and their works pushed me to think critically about the complex issues happening in the real world and what it means to create from experience.” 

Rejani expressed apprehension about being a first-generation student at the university level. “Having to navigate some of the challenges presented to me not only as a student but as a Black woman coming from a lower socio-economic background, has been incredibly difficult to manage. However, they produced a type of resilience in me that lets me know I can overcome barriers. As a first-generation college student, I have questioned if I even belong in academia. However, now I know that not only do I belong here, but what I have to share with other people is valuable and needed.”

Jessica Golden is a third year student from Morganton, NC, majoring in WGSS with a minor in Anthropology.

We asked Jessica, “What does being a McNair Scholar mean to you?” She replied, “They are going to help prepare us to apply and thrive in graduate programs and give us opportunities that we normally wouldn’t be able to access. This program allows me to connect to other driven people with similar goals and ambitions and to be successful in as I continue my education.”

Jessica says that she chose a major in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies because, “WGSS has helped me think more critically about issues happening in our society, and ways we can fix and find solutions for them. I feel like this department requires us to think critically about intersectional issues regarding race, sexuality, etc. that we are seeing everywhere in our world. Our department challenges us to understand our society and make a difference in our thinking.” 

Jessica’s experience as a first generation student reflects her work ethic and determination to succeed, Jessica understands her first-gen status as an advantage. “Being a first generation student means that you’re on your own for a lot of things, it’s trial and error. As a first generation student you are more likely to seek out opportunities and take advantage of the opportunities presented to you,  because you don’t know so much and it makes you look for things and in places that others wouldn’t.”

If you’d like to know more about the McNair scholars program, please follow this link