McNair Scholars Program renewed with $924,000 education grant

The McNair Scholars Program at SUNY Oswego, a graduate preparation program, this month received federal funding of $231,000 per year for another four years, marking its first renewal since it was established in 2003.

“The ultimate goal for our McNair scholars is for everyone to receive their terminal Ph.D.,” said Dr. Adrianne Morton, SUNY Oswego’s McNair project director.

She said the number of scholars participating in Oswego’s program has grown, from 22 students to 26, and funding from the U.S. Department of Education has grown as well.

“The bulk of the money goes toward services for the students,” Morton said.

The national Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Award Program was created to honor the memory of McNair, who earned his doctorate in physics and became the second African-American astronaut in space. He died on the Challenger space shuttle.

Students who participate in the program receive academic counseling and tutoring as well as financial assistance. McNair pays half the fee for students who take the Graduate Record Examinations for graduate school. McNair also pays for prep courses for the GRE.

“McNair puts people under the perfect circumstances where you feel as if you could do this—you could get that advance degree,” said one McNair scholar, Stephanie Wasley, a senior sociology major who wishes to study sociology or criminology in graduate school.

Morton said that each scholar must complete an intensive research project that is published in the McNair Scholar publication. She added that McNair scholars must present their research in Oswego, at a conference in Buffalo and regionally.

Some of the scholars found the research rigorous. “I was frazzled because the research was very difficult. It taught me about time management and self-motivation,” said scholar Christina Parker, a senior with a double major in public justice and psychology.

Morton said scholars receive $400 during the semester and $2,000 during the summer that they are required to remain in Oswego to complete the research project. Scholars who remain on campus during the summer also receive free room and board.

She noted that McNair mentors keep track of their scholars for 10 years to assure that they are still heading in the right direction toward obtaining their Ph.D. McNair officials will work with a scholar’s institution to provide additional financial support if money proves to be a dilemma, she added.

To be eligible for the McNair program, students must demonstrate high financial need and come from an under-represented group. Morton emphasized that the McNair program is open to students of all majors.

Candidates should have junior standing and a minimum overall grade average of 2.75. Morton noted that most scholars exceed that expectation, leaving the college with grade point averages above 3.0.

Scholar and senior Ashley Noble is a prime example. “My grades went up because McNair motivates you in doing better,” Noble said.

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(Posted: Oct 31, 2007)