Program Reflection

My experience as a McKearn Fellow has been challenging at times, but it has been a great experience and I’m so glad I had this opportunity this summer. I will walk away from this summer program with so many benefits. I will have a finished project to be proud of, but there are even more important benefits I have received from this program. I have had the great opportunity to speak with NIU alumni, which was a priceless benefit this program has given me. I had the chance to learn about research, team building, and most importantly, leadership.


Besides my personal skill building, I am very grateful that I got to spend 8 weeks with my McKearn Fellows. I want to personally say that all of you have been great and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend this time with. I’m excited to be taking classes next semester with a few of you, and I hope the rest of us stay in touch. I would also like to thank my mentor, Bart Woodstrup for the time and effort he has put in to help me through my project. I would like to thank John and Cassandra McKearn for providing us with this amazing opportunity, which has been a great experience for those of us who were lucky enough to take part in it. Last but not least I would like to thank the McKearn Team and the NIU faculty and staff, without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This program has been great, and the memories and skills I have gained this summer will last a lifetime. 


Project Reflection

            This summer research project has helped teach me many things, including time management, peer review skills, group cohesion, and leadership skills. This hasn’t come without a whole lot of work. We are nearing the end of week 6 and the work is keeping us very busy. Our projects need to be done by the end of next week and I think I can speak for all the McKearn Fellows when I say that it is much too soon. Many of us are working late into the night, and waking up early in the morning. It isn’t all without good reason; we all care deeply about our projects and want to put forth the best effort we can. So my worry is not getting it done on time, my main concern is doing it to the best of my ability. I want a final project that I can be proud to show off.

            This project has been a large time commitment and we have had to learn how to balance our projects, our group activities, our social lives, and our sleep! I am an organized person so the best way for me to work through these challenges is to write out schedules and organized lists. With a list of things to do, I am able to collect myself and figure out what step I should take next. I remember something important Ken Chessick said when we met him. He said that he makes lists of the things he needs to do, and he orders them by importance, that way he knows where his priorities lie, while understanding that not everything can be done at once. I have been using this practice and it has helped me a whole lot. Another way I work through my project is with the help of my mentors. They are able to give me great advice and keep me from stressing out too much. So a special thanks goes out to Bart Woodstrup and Kim Volmer.

            I’m both excited and nervous for the end of this program. My main concern is that my project won’t live up to the standards I have created for myself. But it is not over yet! I still have a week to buckle down and get solid work done on my project. So wish me luck with the rest of the program, although I’m sure my hard work will get me through.

The Leadership Challenge

            According to our reading of The Leadership Challenge, there are five practices that allow for successful leadership. They are as follows:


1. Model the Way

2. Inspire a Shared Vision

3. Challenge the Process

4. Enable Others to Act

5. Encourage the Heart


            Each of these aspects are important for good leadership, but some may be easier than others to follow. While I may find it easy to “Model the Way” and “Encourage the Heart” others might not. When it comes to my leadership style the practice that I find difficult, but also very important is “Challenge the Process”. Challenging the process means that you are able to experiment with new ideas and change the way things are done. This may be easy in theory, but it can be hard to suggest new ideas and change the way things are done. I have found this practice is particularly important when it comes to my individual project. My project is unique, so it doesn’t always fit into the research parameters that are set in place. So it is my job to interpret those parameters and change them so they will work for me. This process isn’t easy, but I’m grateful to my mentors for helping me “Challenge the Process” and make the project work for me.  

Reflection on the Lorado Taft Retreat

            Sunshine, the Rock River, white pine trees, and mosquitos, were just a few of the things I spent some time with this weekend during my retreat at Lorado Taft. Even more important than those things, was the chance for me to spend some time with my peers from the McKearn program, Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), and Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). This opportunity was great because it took us away from the university setting and placed us in a beautiful, quiet, environment where we had the chance to think through our research experiences.

            This weekend offered many different lessons, but the most important lesson for me was to learn to relax and step away from my project every once in a while. Rather than feeling dragged down by a project by trying to finish it all at once, I learned that it is good to step back and just breathe some fresh air. I have learned to give myself a chance to rethink ideas, so I can come back with a new outlook. This can contribute to my leadership style because it reminds me that leaders don’t always have to be involved in everything that is going on, it is okay to walk away and clear your mind every once in a while. The Lorado Taft campus was the perfect place to learn this lesson, because it has such a beautiful and calming environment. So next time I’m feeling super stressed out, rather than trying to get it all done at once, maybe I’ll just go for a short walk to clear my head before getting back to it. 


            The McKearn Summer Fellows Program is supporting me in the designing of my own video game. The video game that I am creating is called Disjointed. It tells the story of a rag doll named Emmalee who is thrown away by her owner and left to pick herself up and find her way through an unforgiving world. This game will be a two-dimensional adventure game that involves strong moral values as well as the use of gender roles. The importance of my game comes from the portrayal of my main character. Emmalee is a strong, nonviolent, female character. She does not fit the stereotypes about what game companies think women typically look for when choosing a video game.  She isn’t all about shopping, dating, or the color pink.  She is also realistic; she is not designed like a Barbie doll.  Emmalee has realistic proportions and is not hyper-sexualized. Having more realistic portrayals of female characters in video games is important. There is a growing female population in the video game community, and they deserve to play games with strong female roles, not female characters portrayed as sexual objects.

            Level Up! : The Guide to Great Video Game Design is a book that has been a huge help when it comes to designing my game. It gives clear parameters and suggestions, but they are all broad enough that they can be helpful with any type of game you want to create. The most helpful aspect of this book is the “Ten-Page Design Document Sample”. I adapted this document sample to help me build the paper that describes the design of my game. It helps me by giving me clear sections to split my paper into, as well as telling me what aspects are important to include. I have looked through many books about video game design, but this one is definitely the most helpful. I am also indebted to the many video games I have played throughout my life, without them I would have no idea where to start with my own game. I would also like to mention the importance of videogame walkthroughs and commentary on YouTube, which help me to understand games that I will not get the chance to play myself. These sources (among others) have been invaluable, as well as the support of my faculty mentor Bart Woodstrup, and The McKearn Summer Fellows Program. 


Ethics are moral principles that drive people’s actions. Ethics are increasingly important in the business world. Since I’ll be going into the field of accounting, ethics are incredibly important. In accounting you hold the responsibility to manage the financial interests of a business. Taking that responsibility seriously and making ethical choices is very important. Many of the accounting principles set out strict rules for how to approach ethical dilemmas. Personal ethics come into play when there is a dilemma not explicitly stated in the accounting principles.

During my research it is important to stick to very strong moral and ethical values.  One value that is critically important is to properly credit sources you have used in your research. So to have an ethically strong project I will need to give credit where credit is due and never improperly cite someone else’s work. This aspect is important for research, but ethics in general are important in every aspect of your life. So staying ethical is vitally important for yourself, for your peers, for your community, and for the world.

Etiquette Training

             The etiquette training was definitely a new experience for me. I learned some of the concepts in high school, but much of the small details were new to me. I feel a bit out of place in more professional settings so the lunch made me a bit nervous. The point at which I felt the most nervous was when we entered the room with the alumni and were doing our introductions. During the meal I was a bit nervous because I wanted to make sure I was using the silverware correctly while still keeping a coherent conversation. I began to feel more at ease when we got up from the meal, because I no longer had to worry about the small details and my table manners. My peers made this experience more enjoyable because I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt uncomfortable. Howard Blietz also eased the tension a bit by telling amusing anecdotes that made us laugh and feel more at ease. I would like to thank my peers because we were able to work through the situation together. The skills I learned today will be useful in many aspects of my life. I can use my knowledge about the proper way to introduce myself in my everyday life. With the knowledge I have now I can approach people and introduce myself properly. What I learned today is also easily applicable to any interview I have in the future, and can help me get my dream job. This experience has contributed to my leadership skills by enhancing my confidence in a professional setting. Confidence plays an important role in leadership, and knowing proper etiquette can help you gain the confidence you need in an important social or business event.