The McNair Scholars program at Central Michigan University has been awarded a $1.1 million five-year grant extension to continue assisting underrepresented students with post graduate aspirations.
“It’s been a great program,” Program Director Roger Cole said. “It is a wonderful opportunity and we highly encourage more to apply.”
The McNair Scholars program was recently awarded federal five-year funding at an annual rate of $231,448 from the U.S. Department of Education, despite more than 50 McNair Programs being eliminated across the nation due to reduced federal funds.
This year, the President’s Office also will contribute $15,000.
Since Central Michigan University’s inaugural McNair Scholars class in 1999, the program has served 145 students. Nearly half of whose students have gone on to earn their master’s degrees, and approximately 20 percent have enrolled in doctoral programs upon graduation.
Five students have earned their Ph.D., and 27 more are currently enrolled to receive one in the coming years. CMU anticipates producing four to five new Ph.D. recipients each year over the next five years.
Houghton Lake junior James Dunn is a biochemistry major and is one of the most recent cohorts in the McNair Scholars program.
He is working on research focused on microbially facilitated manganese oxidation – the study of a species of bacteria that helps the formation of an oxide that acts as a sorbet of toxic metals. This is particularly important, Dunn said, in soil cycling and other environmental processes.
“Without programs like McNair, people who are certainly capable of doing great work might not have the resources to get there,” he said. “Programs like McNair are extremely important in helping people reach their potential.”
The McNair program is directed toward helping disadvantaged college students achieve advanced degrees. Associate Director Lynn Curry said that applicants must be low income, first generation students and underrepresented, although, it is not specifically a minority program.
“The benefits of what I can get out of it are so great,” Dunn said. “You develop soft skills that aren’t taught, but important for getting into a good graduate program.”
Curry said students in the program learn how to build credentials and gain vital research experience with faculty mentors in different colleges. For example, English Language and Literature Professor Brooke Harrison works with students in academic writing, while Associate Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts Shelly Hinck builds oral presentation skills.
“When I look at what I do with McNair students, my goal is to help the student to develop the confidence, knowledge and the ability to earn a Ph.D. if they choose to,” Curry said.
Recruiting for the program starts early so students can get into the mindset of achieving post graduate success. For many, simply being the first in their family to attend college is an accomplishment in its own right.
“We want students who are academically motivated, who are passionate, excited and want to work hard and will grab onto an opportunity and go full out,” Curry said.