College of Arts and Sciences

John P. McNulty Scholars Program for Excellence in Science and Math


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The John P. McNulty Scholars Program

is designed for highly qualified young women who are pursuing a degree in one of the natural sciences, mathematics or computer science at Saint Joseph’s University. This challenging program provides full- and partial-tuition scholarships, and a supportive environment to help bright young women become leaders who reach the highest echelons of the STEM professions. 

McNulty Program graduates have gone onto pursue advanced degrees in biology, food science, mechanical engineering, materials chemistry and neuroscience at institutions including Cornell University, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois and Johns Hopkins University.

December 2016: The Top 10 Questions We Had When We Applied to the McNulty Scholars Program


McNulty Scholars Program Class of 2018.
L-R: Abigail Sweetman, Marisa Egan and Shelley Donaldson

It's that time of year.  We aren't talking about the holidays.  Or even finals.  We're talking about the time of year when high school seniors are applying to become McNulty Scholars here at SJU. If you're a woman interested in math or science, then we may be talking about you.  The McNulty Scholars Program is a wonderful opportunity for women in STEM to receive a financial scholarship to pursue their studies.  But it's so much more than that. And when we were working on our applications three years ago, we had so many questions about the McNulty Progam.  We bet you do too.  Well, now we know the answers and want to share them with you!

sweetmanAbigail Sweetman (Biology & History)

Q: What are the advantages of a STEM scholarship program that's only open for women?

A: STEM scholarship programs are absolutely worthwhile, but women have different pressures exerted on them, particularly in STEM environments.  The McNulty Program is so much more than a scholarship. As a McNulty Scholar, you are compelled to use the opportunities you have been given to be part of a larger conversation about how to combat the ways in which women are seen in these environments.  This program is highly selective, which keeps it small. So while we've all been offered significant compensation for our accomplishments in high school, we're also offered a supportive community of women who face the same things every day. It's empowering and inspiring to be part of this program.

eganMarisa Egan (Biology)

Q: How do classes in college compare to those in high school?

A: Classes in college can seem very different from those in high school, especially during your freshman year. In college, the classes move faster than those in high school. Also the material is usually more detailed, and your professors have high expecations that you will be able to handle it. However high school classes, especially Honors and AP classes, do prepare you for college-level work. Moreover, the professors at SJU are exptremely supportive and understand that the academic transition from high school to college can be a tough one. They all have office hours, which I encourage you to attend! During office hours, your professors can really help you understand the material better and you get to know each other better too.  Plus, there are other resources on campus to help with your academic adjustment, including the Supplemental Instruction (SI) Program and free tutoring through the Office of Learning Resources (OLR). These programs are led by students who have taken and done well in the classes that you need help in. Many McNulty women are SI Leaders and tutors. Remember to seek help from your professors and peers. Everyone is so supportive and wants to help you succeed!

donaldsonShelley Donaldson (Mathematics & Computer Science)

Q: I love math and science now, but what if I decide that I want to change my major to a non-STEM field while I'm a McNulty Scholar?

A: The McNulty Scholars Program is designed to promote women in STEM fields, so if you decide to switch your major to something outside of math or science, you will no longer be eligible for the scholarship. However there are many ways to pursue interests outside of STEM as a McNulty Scholar.  To get a minor at SJU, you usually only need six classes in thes subject that you wish to minor in, so many Scholars have been able to pursue mionrs in other disciplines such as Philosophy or English. One current McNulty Scholar is even pursuing a double major in Biology and History, two disciplines with no overlap in required classes.  Long story short, pursuing other areas of academic study is not only possible but celebrated. As a Jesuit school, SJU values students who are well rounded, so your McNulty mentors and academic advisors will work with you to make it possible for you to take interesting classes outside of your major.

eganQ: How do I get involved in activities other than academic ones? What is available on campus in terms of extracurricular activities?

A: SJU offers a myriad of extracurricular activities that you can get involved in, even as early as freshman year! In fact, all of the McNulty women are involved in at least one of these extracurriculars, which helps all of us take a break from our rigorous academic schedules.  There is an Activities Fair in the beginning of the fall semester that helps expose freshmen to the vast extracurricular activites that SJU has to offer. These appeal to all interests, from athletic to professional activities.  A few of these clubs and organizations include the Student Senate, Campus Ministry, Adventure Club and Club Sports. There are even several professional and social sororities, fraternities and honor societies that McNulty women are leaders in. One of my favorites is Phi Sigma Pi, the national gender-inclusive honor fraternity. There are also several service-oriented events and trips sponsored by SJU, including weekly service, winter immersion trips, the Collegiate Challenge and APEX.


Q: What is the best experience you've had as a result of the McNulty Program?

A: It's difficult to wrap my head around all of the great things that this program has given me. Other than the constant support and opporunity for intellectual development, I was highly encouraged to participate in the Summer Scholars Program because of my status as a McNulty Scholar. I spent a summer in a lab on campus, and while I decided that it wasn't necessarily the kind of work I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, it offered invaluable experience and insight into a specific portion of my field. My work last summer led to an invitation to present my research at the American Society of Cell Biology National Meeting in San Francisco a couple weeks ago. And it may result in a journal publication by the time I graduate. Research isn't always valuable for the reasons you think it will be, but it is always, always valuable.

donaldsonQ: What is your favorite McNulty Program event?

A: It has become a bit of a tradition every year for one of the upperclassman McNulty Scholars to host a Chinese food dinner at her apartment. Sometimes we play card games or board games, but usually we just end up talking for most of the evening. Though this is not an "official" McNulty Program event, it is always a lot of fun and is a great way to bond with the other women in the program.


Q: Is it difficult to balance academics and extracurricular commitments? How does time management work in college?

A: During your freshman year, you will be exposed to so many different opportunities, ranging from extracurricular ones to research and professional opportunities. it is so exciting to have so much freedom to choose how to spend your time. But you have to remember that your schoolwork will be tedious, as college classes are usually more difficult, involved and rigorous than high school ones. So you need to find a balance. This balance is only achieved though experience and personal prioritization. I recommend trying to prioritize your commitments and sticking to this personal prioritization. Time management is a skill that you will develop thorughout colleg. It is one that you will not master your freshman fact even as a junior at SJU, I am still working on my time management skills.

sweetmanQ: How has being a part of the McNulty Program changed your thoughts about your future plans?

A: I started out at SJU with very nebulous plans of going to medical school and being a doctor with my biology degree.  I thought I could best serve the STEM community by going back to rural Alaska to be doctor in places they really need them. While that was absolutely a noble idea, my liberal arts education awakened in me a desire for social justice, writing and history.The McNulty community really helped me look into this. Now I have plans to conduct research in the history department next summer. I work in the writing center on campus and I'm involved with politics on campus. I took an internship with Philadelphia FIGHT, essentially using my knowledge about biology for service work. I took a service learning class teaching earth science to 4th graders. And the McNulty women and faculty have never been anything less than truly supportive while I purused interests that weren't directly science-related. Now I plan on applying to law school to work in science policy and serve my STEM community by advocating for funding and legislation that promotes scientific research and development. The McNulty Program has been significant in helping me shape my decisions, and I'm more confident in my career choices than ever before.

donaldsonQ: Do you find the McNulty Program to be a supportive community?

A: Yes! The strong community is one of the best parts of being in the McNulty Program.  The other Scholars will respond to your texts asking for advice about which classes to take almost as soon as you've finished typing the message. Once you choose your classes, they will offer to give you their old textbooks so that you don't have to pay for new ones. And the McNulty Program family doesn't end with the students. The faculty mentors will take you out to lunch to celebrate the end of the semester. They will make a point to send along any internship opportunities that they think you might be interestedin. And they will listen patiently when you go to their office hours seeking career advice...even if they were just about to go home for the day.

sweetmanQ: Do you think programs like this should be more common?

A: Absolutely! I have friends in STEM at schools scattered across the country, and I've never talked with anyone who has been been part of anything like the McNulty Program. The truth is, I'm at school 3,500 miles away from home. While I love my mom terribly, it's been absolutely worht the distance, travel and homesickness to be part of something so original and important. I could have gone to school much closer to home, and I could have gotten a biology degree anywhere I went. But I couldn't have experienced anything like this program, and that's how I know I've made the right decision.

To hear from other McNulty classes, please check out Words From McNulty Students.

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