The McNair Scholars Program renews funding for $1.2 million over 5 years

The federally funded TRIO program aims to help low-income, first generation students obtain doctoral degrees.

The McNair Scholars Program renews funding for $1.2 million over 5 years

The federally funded TRIO program aims to help low-income, first generation students obtain doctoral degrees.

 The McNair Scholars Program at the University of Nevada, Reno has been funded for another five years. The $1.2 million grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education is geared toward providing academic experiences to first-generation, underrepresented and low-income students. Through research opportunities, mentoring, classes and workshops, the McNair program aims to promote the idea of obtaining not only a bachelor's degree but also doctoral degrees.

"McNair Scholars are committed to diversity and finding that common thread of being first- generation college students," Yesenia Padilla, a senior at the University and McNair Scholar, said. "I think, for all of us, we get this idea of going to college because it's important, but when we get here we don't really know what we are doing. McNair gives us the tools to figure it out."
The year-long McNair Scholars Program enrolls 27 students annually. Throughout the school year, students in the program must participate in an undergraduate research program, attend weekly meetings and monthly workshops, go to conferences and maintain at least a 2.9 GPA. Additionally, every student in the program gets a $3,500 stipend in order to conduct in a research study.

"Being able to continue to provide high impact educational opportunities, such as undergraduate research, to students who may not otherwise have these opportunities is really great. Our outcomes data in terms of college graduation and graduate school enrollment and completion as compared to national averages show that McNair Scholars is highly effective." Perry Fittrer, assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program, said.

The program is not just prevalent during the academic school year, but during the summer as well.

"The research is year-round, but the summer program is when students get to focus solely on it," Fittrer said.

Each summer, McNair Scholars participate in a 10- week summer research program, during which they must conduct a faculty-mentored independent research project. At the end of 10 weeks, students do a presentation on their findings, write an abstract and paper that will be published in the McNair Scholar's Journal and present at the annual McNair Research Symposium. 

"McNair has given me the ability to network and learn skills, like how to write for fellowships," Padilla said. "It has forced me to go out of my comfort zone and find a mentor and do research, and that isn't something I would've done without McNair. That has made a really big difference for me."

Upon applying to graduate programs, the McNair Scholars Program participants are given individual assistance with graduate school applications and GRE and application fee waivers at selected institutions.

"I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school before I was accepted into the McNair program, but I had no idea what I needed to do to get there. Once I was in McNair, I found myself in the middle of a very supportive and enthusiastic group of talented people. With the help of McNair I was able to apply to 17 graduate schools, and now I am working on getting my PhD in physics at West Virginia University," said Cuyler Beatty a former McNair Scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"We are looking for students who are motivated and committed to doing the work and going to graduate school, because it's a pretty intense academic program Students who are committed to the process and take advantage of everything McNair offers, are very successful in transitioning to graduate education and beyond," said Fittrer.

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