In early December, Wesleyan was awarded a five-year renewal grant from the Department of Education’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Program. Along with the funding for the McNair Program, Wesleyan was also awarded a grant renewal of $2.5 million for another Federal TRIO program, the Upward Bound Math-Science Program, which focuses specifically on study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The McNair Program distributes funds to institutions of higher education to prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for post-graduate and doctoral studies through involvement in University research and other academic programs. Its goal is to increase the number of Ph.D. degrees, in any field of study, obtained by minorities and other students from underrepresented parts of society. It is one of eight federal TRIO programs, which provide academic services to disadvantaged individuals, such as first-generation and low-income students as well as veterans.
Over the past ten years, the Ronald E. McNair Program has supported the academic endeavors of hundreds of students, all of whom have been either first-generation, low-income, or from a minority group underrepresented in the post-grad population, which the program’s website lists as “African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, Native American Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan native.” After completing their undergraduate studies at Wesleyan, 38 McNair alumni have obtained master’s degrees, 6 have obtained medical degrees, and 2 have obtained doctorates.
As a result of the grant, under which Wesleyan will receive about $1.16 million in total, the University will be able to continue offering McNair scholarships to about 15 students in each class year. The program breaks these students up into two groups: McNair scholars are students in their second, third, and fourth semesters of college, while McNair fellows are juniors and seniors who do research with a member of the faculty. The central component of the fellowship is the Wesleyan McNair Summer Session, a ten-week research internship with an experienced faculty mentor.
McNair scholars and fellows emphasize the importance of the program in providing assistance and experience.
“The McNair Program has helped me in so many ways that I won’t be able to list them all,” said McNair Fellow Eduardo Centeno ’19, who plans to get his Ph.D. in in geoscience.
Centeno says without the program, grad school wouldn’t have crossed his mind. Even if it had, he doesn’t think it would have been an option.
“No one from my family has ever gone to graduate school in the US, so it was such a foreign idea to me that I never thought I would be able to get in,” Centeno said. “The application process was daunting, and I had no idea what these programs were looking for. The McNair Program has done a great job at demystifying all aspects of the application process, providing insight as to what life in grad school is actually like, and what will be expected of me. Through McNair, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to countless graduate students, admissions officers, and professors. They’ve provided funding for my research, travel expenses so that I could attend national conferences, GRE fees, and application fees. Now I feel very confident that I will be able to get into grad school, and I know how to make myself a competitive applicant for some of my reach schools.”
As the application process for receiving funds from the McNair Program is extremely competitive, The University is very fortunate for the grant renewal.
“Every five years, programs are required to apply for funding, so there is no guarantee that Wesleyan will be refunded,” Associate Director of Wesleyan’s McNair Program Ronnie Hendrix explained in the University Newsletter. “We are pleased that the proposal earned enough points to be refunded so we can continue assisting our underrepresented students at Wesleyan.”
The grant will ensure that students continue to receive paid opportunities for research and internships, educational seminars to prepare students for doctoral study, tutoring and academic support, graduate exam workshops, and financial assistance for enrolling in graduate programs.