CMU’s McNair Scholar Program awarded $1.1 million in federal funding
At a time when other universities are losing funding for their programs, Central Michigan University’s McNair Scholars Program will receive an additional $1.1 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education.
The program helps low-income, first generation and underrepresented students prepare to obtain their Ph.D.
“The most significant thing we do is expose our scholars to research by having them work on original research projects under the guidance of a faculty research mentor,” McNair Scholar Program Director Lynne Curry said via email.
CMU’s program was not cut because the Department of Education sets goals for programs such as this, and CMU’s program achieved all of the goals and benchmarks set for it. This and other factors are considered when deciding to re-award a university the program funding.
Since the program’s creation in 1999, 145 students have been accepted into the program, with nearly half of all students in the program obtaining a master’s degree and 20 percent studying for a Ph.D at universities across the country.
This semester, 15 students were accepted into the program.
Curry said beyond the initial requirements for an award, students must show a passion for a subject that will help them move toward higher forms of education.
“We look for students (who) are enthusiastic about creating new knowledge in this world,” she said.
Evart junior Rhianna French, a McNair Scholar studying psychology, said being a McNair Scholar sets her apart from most students.
“When people find out you are a McNair scholar, they look at you in a different light,” French said. “You will get people’s attention. People in academia know McNair and know how impressive and valuable a McNair scholar is.”
She said to maintain the award, students must attend a class built to improve research writing and log at least 20 hours per week of activities related to the program in the summer, including working on a research project, attending seminars and preparing for the Graduate Record Examination.
The program also helps students network with professors and professionals in their respective fields of study.
Rogers City junior Andrew Derry, a McNair Scholar studying in hopes of working at NASA as a researcher, obtained funding through the program to visit Texas A&M over spring break to network with faculty at the university’s Space Life Sciences Center Program and the Johnson Space Center.
“McNair provides an intense preparation en route to a fully funded Ph.D. program,” he said.
Derry, as part of the McNair Scholar Program, is also part of a summer-long research opportunity in Mount Pleasant called the Summer Research Institute.
He said the extra funding awarded to CMU’s program will help future generations of McNair Scholars, like it helped him.
“Securing funding for current scholars and those in the future will promote opportunities for undergraduate students to prepare for graduate school and the pursuit of a Ph.D. in their desired field,” he said. “As a low-income, underrepresented student, I face struggles other students do not understand, and securing funding for the McNair Program at CMU will help students like myself overcome the obstacles we face.”
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