Four students have been selected to participate in the 2023 W Summer Scholars program, an initiative run by Mississippi University for Women’s Office of Undergraduate Research. They are Hailey McCool, Hailey Reel, Rie Trask and Alyssa Vernon.

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

“This year’s cohort has some really interesting projects, and I look forward to see what their enthusiasm and dedication will produce as the summer progresses,” said Hillary Richardson, coordinator of Undergraduate Research and Information Literacy.

Hailey McCool and Hailey Reel

Each student who participates in the W Summer Scholars program will present a synopsis of their accomplishments at an end-of-program event on July 24th at 4 p.m. at Fant Memorial Library. Furthermore, they are required to present their research in full at a scholarly venue in the coming semesters as a result of their participation in Summer Scholars.

McCool is a family science major from Sturgis. When she first started her career in research it was for the financial assistance, “but the more I did it, the more I fell in love with the job; so now I’m participating [in Summer Scholars] to further my career and be a wonderful experience overall.”

Rie Trask

Reel is a family science major from Louisville who plans on pursuing a career in either child protection services or counseling. She hopes to apply her work on the project not only to her major, but also toward skills and projects that are part of her career path.

McCool and Reel are both working on a project titled “There’s no time for love: Can relationship education programs lead to college success?” with the help of their mentor, Dr. Cecilia Brooks.

Trask is an English major with a minor in history from Vidalia, Louisiana. Rie’s research will focus on the myth of LGBTQ+ indoctrination, with a goal to bring more clarity and engagement about the topic to a general audience. They are being mentored by Dr. Iheoma Nwachukwu, and after graduating next year, they plan to attend grad school and get a book published.

Vernon, a history major with a concentration in public history from Belfry, Kentucky, will use the summer to study the origin of cacao and the use of chocolate in Latin America, mentored by Dr. Reyna Vergara. Vernon was very excited for the opportunity to participate in Summer Scholars, saying “I love the opportunity to do research. My end goal is to be a historian working in a museum or an archive using those skills, so any opportunity I have, I will take it.” 

Alyssa Vernon

Members of the public are invited to hear about their work July 24th 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

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.

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