McNair Scholars Program at TAMU-CC offers Mentorship, Research Opportunities, and Path to Success for Islander Twins

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi hosts its Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 16, a set of twins, Nasya and Noah Melendez, will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art, respectively. They have coupled their achievement with successful participation in the university’s McNair Scholars Program.

“I’ve never met more well-mannered and courteous students,” said Dr. Peggy Valdes, Director of the McNair Scholars Program at TAMU-CC. “They attended much of the McNair programming, followed our advice, and trusted the process; now they are on their way to graduate school. They are prime examples of exemplar McNair scholars.”

The twins are from Mission, Texas, a border community where one-fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. As first-generation college students raised by their mother and grandmother, they made the mutual decision to pursue their college education together.

“It was important for us to come to TAMU-CC together because college was a big step in our lives,” Nasya said. “We really wanted to experience it together, and having my brother by my side throughout this experience has been extremely special to me.”

Beyond the support from the two strong women in their lives, Nasya and Noah found valuable assistance within the TAMU-CC McNair Scholars Program. The federally funded grant initiative, named in honor of physicist and astronaut Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, a member of the ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger crew in January 1986, serves to dismantle obstacles to student success.

“The McNair Scholars Program prepares first-gen, low-income, and underrepresented students to conduct research in their given fields to deepen their understanding so that they can go for a master’s and eventually a doctorate,” Valdes explained. “We create a community of learners that all have something in common — to go to graduate school. We do that with a lot of advice and support. We also have faculty mentors who may have been first-gen students themselves.”

Nasya selected Dr. Steven Seidel, Interim Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Professor of Psychology, as her mentor. Together, they worked on three research projects exploring psychology and business topics, such as implicit beliefs about work affecting job performance and satisfaction, work anxiety, and growth mindsets. As her mentor, Seidel offered guidance and support for Nasya’s research, enabling her to present at regional conferences, including the Southwestern Psychological Association meeting.

“Nasya has exhibited remarkable growth during her tenure at TAMU-CC,” Seidel said. “Witnessing her transition from a somewhat shy undergraduate to a confident and driven scholar and graduate student candidate has been a rewarding experience. Her dedication to research, coupled with her positive attitude, positions her as an outstanding candidate for graduate studies.”

Noah’s choice for a mentor was Alexandria Canchola, Assistant Professor of Art in Graphic Design. Among the many interests the two share are digital imagery, illustration, design, and independently produced publications known as “zines.” As Noah’s mentor, Canchola discussed her own processes, techniques, and research methods; she also assisted Noah in learning more about graduate studies and applying to various programs.

“Noah is constantly experimenting and chasing new ideas,” Canchola said. “He is passionate about the work he is making and it’s exciting to see how his confidence has continued to grow as an artist and scholar. In Noah’s time at TAMU-CC, I have seen him find his artistic voice.”

Noah’s research focused on zine making, production, and history as tools for personal and political expression and fandom. His most recent work draws inspiration from the collages his mother made and sold as second source of income. His show titled, “Alterations,” can be seen at the Art Center of Corpus Christi alongside the other TAMU-CC artists graduating this semester.

As the twins shift their focus to grad school, they reflect on their time together as Islanders. The late-night study sessions, leaning on each other during difficult times, playing video games, going to the movies, or out to dinner provided much-needed support and friendship. The brother and sister duo who have never been apart for more than a week will likely go in two different directions for graduate school. 

“It’s going to be a strange experience,” Noah said. “I am used to Nasya being with me, or a short car ride away. I think it will be good for us, though, to find ourselves more apart, but I am really going to miss her.”

Noah is applying to graduate schools, mostly in Texas, in hopes of securing a spot in a drawing, painting, or illustration-focused Master of Fine Arts program. Nasya will begin an online Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Human Resource Management at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She hopes to focus on sports management, drawing on her background as a high school athlete.

Valdes said the sky is the limit for the Melendez twins.

“While their research portfolios are quite impressive, the compelling thing about them — their Islander Impact — is their kindness,” Valdes said. “Their kindness, along with their intelligence, resourcefulness, positive attitude, and drive for success will take them far beyond their immediate goals to get into grad school. Their kindness will follow them for the rest of their lives.”