McNair Scholars Profile: From Bartender to PhD Candidate in Five Years

Just five years ago, Cameron Bundy was bartending in Yakima and hadn’t give much thought to pursuing a college degree.

Today, the 2022 CWU alum and first-generation college student is immersed in a PhD program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, pursuing his passion for applied mathematics.

“I didn’t envision my life going the way it was, so I decided it was time for a change of scenery,” said Bundy, 30, who started his higher ed journey at Yakima Valley College in 2017. “I fell in love with math right away, and that eventually brought me to CWU.”

He connected with the McNair Scholars program in the winter of 2021 and put his applied mathematics knowledge to the test, using differential equations to research the spread of COVID-19 under varying lockdown conditions. That work helped him gain the attention of RIT, one of the most respected institutions in the U.S. for mathematical modeling.

“What helped me was the specific kind of research I was doing,” Bundy said, adding that his participation in the national Mathematics Contest in Modeling (MCM) was equally beneficial. “I prepared a convincing essay to prove my credentials, and I think they appreciated how I took the time to explain my situation.”

Bundy can’t say enough about the support he received at CWU, thanking McNair program Director Pamela Nevar and Professor Jean Marie Linhart for helping him discover his current path toward an advanced degree.

“A lot of times, people like me just need someone to tell them that they can do something,” Bundy said. “Dr. Linhart and Dr. Nevar reassured me that I did belong and that I could do anything I set my mind to.”

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