Office of Undergraduate Research logo

COLUMBUS, Miss. – Five students have completed the 2022 W Summer Scholars program, an initiative run by Mississippi University for Women’s Office of Undergraduate Research. They are Brooke Alder, Alania Dawkins, Alliya Jefferson, Reggi Pech and Maggie Taylor.

The Summer Scholars program, in its fourth year, is a chance for students to do an independent research study guided by a faculty member during the summer semesters and receive scholarship for tuition, housing and meals.

“I’m really excited to see this program grow. With this year’s cohort, we focused on creating a community of researchers among these students,” said Hillary Richardson, coordinator of Undergraduate Research and Information Literacy. “We’ve had meetings throughout the summer to discuss research habits, tools, resources and outlets they have at their disposal, and we are celebrating not only what they’ve accomplished independently, but their growth as scholars.”

Each student who participated in the W Summer Scholars program will present a synopsis of their accomplishments at an end-of-program event July 26th at 2 p.m. at Fant Memorial Library. Furthermore, they are required to present their research in full at a scholarly venue in the coming months, as a result of their participation in Summer Scholars.

Brooke Alder is a nursing major from Atoka, Tennessee. This summer her research focused on identifying inequalities in transgender healthcare and provide opportunities to better serve the transgender community.

“I hope to identify areas for improvement in healthcare as to better serve and provide equal care and access to the transgender community,” said Alder.

After graduating from the RN-BSN program in August 2022, she plans to apply to The W’s Masters of Nursing program.

Alaina Dawkins, a biology major, is from Reform, Alabama. This summer she researched variations in gecko toe pad shape across the genus to understand when, where and how the morphological diversity arose in hopes to better understand how toe pads evolve generally.

“I wanted to apply because I enjoy researching at an environmental and ecological standpoint,” said Dawkins. “ My interest lies within plants and animal species and how they interact with themselves and their environments. I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the animal aspect since I have already done a study on plants.”

After graduating in August 2022, she plans on applying to graduate school at either the University of Alabama or Mississippi State University.

Jefferson, a psychology major, researched the impact of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) on family functions.

Like others in her cohort, Jefferson also has plans for graduate school. “I hope this prepares me for the next step by helping me get into graduate school by preparing me to conduct better research.”

After graduating in May 2023, she plans to attend graduate school for counseling.

Reggi Pech, a graphic design major from Meridian plans to combine product design and graphic design in order to create an original product prototype along with its packaging and supporting graphic material.

“My goal after The W is to go to graduate school and become an industrial designer,” said Pech. “The Summer Scholars program is a great way to gain valuable experience and expand my portfolio.”

After graduating in May 2023, he plans to pursue a graduate degree and career in industrial design.

Maggie Taylor, a biology major and Columbus native, is researching basic lab techniques to determine the usefulness of synthetic chemical compounds as treatment for cystic fibrosis.

“I wanted to apply for summer scholars to improve my analytical-critical thinking and boost my confidence in the academic field,” said Taylor. “Being able to have one-on-one mentorship throughout this research process will allow me to gain the experience that I need as well as give me the right tools to conduct research effectively and efficiently.”

Taylor, who also participated in the Nancy Yates Community Engagement program this summer, plans to attend medical school after graduating in May of 2024.

Members of the public are invited to hear about their work July 26th at the final program celebration. Those who wish to attend virtually can RSVP to for the zoom link. To learn more about the Summer Scholars Program, visit the OUR website at

July 22, 2022

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.