Home > News > From homelessness to a new career path

More News

Uniting Narratives

Uniting Narratives

Senior Nadya Ellerhorst incorporates different cultures, media to bring unique stories to life
 
My Future, My Voice

My Future, My Voice

Students at UD share how they see their future with the Voices of UD Contest
 
Tara Smith Recognized at the PRSA Educators Academy Summit

Tara Smith Recognized at the PRSA Educators Academy Summit

Tara Smith, director of the strategic communications master’s program, received the Great Ideas for Teaching (GIFT) award at the PRSA Educators Academy Summit in Nashville, Tennessee on October 14.
 
CONNECT

From homelessness to a new career path

Image Picker for Section 0
Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

McNair Scholar dropped out of UD but returned strong and is planning a medical career

Stacy Mahiga, a senior neuroscience major and McNair Scholar at the University of Delaware, has demonstrated fortitude in overcoming challenges during her academic career.

​​

Stacy Mahiga’s middle name, Rahaka, means “sun goddess of joy” in her native Swahili language. The University of Delaware senior, who was born and raised in Kenya, is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience this May, after earning a bachelor’s in interpersonal communication in December. Mahiga’s effervescence — she’s smiling more often than not and favors whimsical touches, like flowers in her hair — is testimony to her resolute optimism in the face of hardship.

When Mahiga was 16, her mother died of a brain tumor and she was sent to the U.S. to live with her father, whom she knew only from occasional visits. She graduated from William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, and matriculated at UD in interpersonal communication. But then the COVID-19 pandemic upended her life. Her father had been visiting Kenya when the pandemic first hit and was unable to come back to the U.S. due to travel restrictions. Weeks and months went by, and Mahiga had no one to turn to. Alone and rudderless, she dropped out of UD and took a job at a retail store. She eventually ended up homeless and spent time in a shelter.

“You weren’t allowed to just stay in bed and mope. You had to be doing something — working on the computer, looking for jobs or finding housing leads,” Mahiga said.

It was during one of those computer sessions that Mahiga emailed Brian Armstrong, UD assistant dean of students, and made the connection that not only brought her back to school but introduced her to a new career path.

“I always liked STEM but I didn’t have the confidence that I could achieve in this area,” Mahiga said. “The communication department has been great to me. I started a news program on STN 49, the student-run news channel, and I regularly blog, but I realized, career-wise, that isn’t where my heart and passion lie.”

Armstrong told Mahiga about the McNair Scholars program, leading her to the track she’s on now. Her goal is to go to medical school.

“If I can contribute to fighting cancer, whether through research or patient care, I will be honoring my mom’s memory,” she said.

UD’s McNair Scholars, one of 151 such programs nationwide, works to increase the number of graduate degrees awarded to first-generation, low-income students and students from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education.

“I remember that first conversation with Stacy well,” Armstrong said. “It was clear that despite the many challenges she was dealing with, she was ready to come back to school. My job was to identify the pathways to make that happen. As soon as she said she wanted to do research, I thought of the McNair program. It provided not only research opportunities but also the critically important housing and funding that she needed.”

Since returning to UD in fall 2021, Mahiga has embarked on a staggering array of curricular and co-curricular activities, including serving as a peer mentor for introductory biology, a studio fellow for integrated biology and chemistry, and a director of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students. The project closest to her heart is Step Up Delaware, a nonprofit she founded to connect low-income and at-risk middle and high school students with college-level mentors.

Speaking one morning, fresh from a mentoring workshop at Newark High School the evening before, Mahiga noted that programs like Step Up Delaware are sorely needed.

“We need to build a pipeline for STEM fields,” she said. “Youth need to see positive role models who look like them who are succeeding in college and later in life.”

Marshala Lee-McCall, a physician and the medical director for the Harrington Trust at Christiana Care, has become one of those positive role models in Mahiga’s life, helping her to navigate the journey to medical school and beyond. The Harrington Trust works to reduce health care disparities for underserved and disadvantaged populations and, as a part of that mission, supports underrepresented students who are interested in careers in medicine. Currently the Harrington Trust helps pay for Mahiga’s study prep classes for MCATs, the medical school exams. As for Marshala-Lee, it’s far more personal — she is part mom and cheerleader, part coach and sounding board, and when needed, a taskmaster to Mahiga.​

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

​Christiana Care physician Marshala Lee-McCall (left) has been a mentor, mom and coach to ​Mahiga

Even for those with every advantage, the road to becoming a physician is long and hard, but Lee-McCall believes Mahiga has the endurance and resilience to achieve her goals.

“First and foremost, Stacy is brilliant,” Lee-McCall said. “But beyond that, she is a caring soul who is super optimistic and always has a smile on her face. I am confident she is going to make a wonderful physician.”

Paul Brewer, a UD professor of communication, served as Mahiga’s advisor for her McNair project, which focused on how members of Black diasporas engage in communications about medicine and science and how media models influence their beliefs.

“Stacy was that student who always sat in the front row. She was intellectually engaged and curious and made thoughtful contributions,” Brewer said. “Advising her as a McNair Scholar was a pleasure. She was independent and took so much initiative.”

This social science project was the start of Mahiga’s research journey at UD. For two years, she has been a research assistant at the Lam Lab, under the direction of Chi Keung Lam, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. The lab’s research focuses on identifying new regulators for calcium control, which is important given that calcium dysregulation has been found to be a hallmark in various types of cardiac diseases.

And Mahiga still pinches herself in disbelief when she talks about where she spent last summer — at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine as a neurosurgical research intern. Alongside other members of the research team, she investigated calcium dynamics and how they affect glioblastoma, a highly invasive brain tumor that grows quickly and currently has no cure.

“I was so thankful for the opportunity to be in a world-class laboratory that is advancing the understanding of these tumors so as to ultimately find out what causes them and identify a cure,” Mahiga said, adding that glioblastoma is the kind of cancer her mom had.

“I think my mom would be proud of what I’ve accomplished at UD and is just waiting to see what comes next for me,” she said.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

​Last summer, Mahiga served as a neurosurgical research intern at New York University’s Grossman School of​ Medicine

​​Article by Margo McDonough 

Photos by Evan Krape and courtesy of Stacy Mahiga and Marshala Lee-McCall 

April 23, 2024

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Image Rendition

Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.

Media Size

Cycle through size options for this image or video.

Original
50%
66%
100%
Fixed Portrait 1
Fixed Portrait 2
Cancel
Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Insert Image

Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.

Insert Video

Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.

Remove Image

Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.

Remove Video

Remove the video from the media panel.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Move Down

Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

Move Up

Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.

Code Cleaner

Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.

Accordion is OFF

Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.

Accordion is ON

Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.

Media Right/Left-Align

Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.

News Story Supporting Images and Text
Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
McNair Scholar dropped out of UD but returned strong and is planning a medical career
Biological Sciences; Communication
 
4/23/2024
No
Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
From homelessness to a new career path
No
 
 
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
From homelessness to a new career path