McNair Scholars is one of three TRiO programs that aims to help students excel
This article is the final one of a series profiling Ohio University's college access programs. The university is preparing to honor this family of services on National TRIO Day, March 3.
Feb. 22, 2007
By Jessica Cuffman
TRiO Day, March 3, will celebrate the McNair Scholars Program at Ohio University as one of three federally funded TRiO programs that are designed to help students gain admission to and excel in undergraduate and graduate college programs.
Currently in its fourth year of a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the McNair Scholars Program helps undergraduates prepare for and gain admission to graduate education. It places them on track to becoming professors and professional researchers. As part of the program, scholars participate in a two-year undergraduate curriculum that includes an intensive summer research component. Scholars also partner with faculty mentors to guide them in their academic career.
"The program has allowed me to have a close relationship with a professor, my mentor in political science," said David Ford, a current McNair scholar. "I've taken several classes with my mentor, which were challenging, but he was trying to show me the work and endurance I going to have to put in to graduate school."
Raymie McKerrow, the McNair program director, senses that students appreciate the opportunity to learn more about research, the graduate application process and other aspects of the McNair program.
McKerrow applied for the grant to begin the program at Ohio University when he experienced trouble recruiting McNair scholars from other colleges to Athens. Since then, the program has become an asset to the university. "I've enjoyed every moment working with the program. I think the value lies in what we are doing with our students here," said McKerrow. Feedback from former McNair scholars who are enrolled in graduate school across the country confirms that.
"I think that it is truly felt by our students," he said.
The program supports anywhere from 20 to 24 students at a time. Scholars can apply to graduate programs anywhere across the country.
One now master's student works here at Ohio University with her undergraduate mentor, and another former student works in a professional program, also with her mentor. Other former McNair Scholars are scattered across the country at colleges such as McGill University and Columbia University. And still others have attended American University, Arizona State University and Carnegie Mellon University to name a few, said McKerrow.
The opportunity students have to travel to present their research also broadens their experiences. The group recently returned from the University of Northern Texas and will travel to Maryland in the spring.
"I think it's a very positive program, and I wish it could be expanded so more students could travel and do more research," Ford said.
Students who have participated in Upward Bound and CAP, the two other TRiO programs at Ohio University are especially encouraged to explore the McNair Scholars Program.
The U.S. Congress endowed the program in honor of Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly into space. He faced cultural and economic barriers in his youth, and the program is aimed to encourage students with backgrounds similar to his to pursue graduate study. McNair was one of the seven crew members who died on the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Scholars must meet eligibility requirements similar to those of CAP, such as being a first generation college student or a member of an underrepresented minority group. Other basics requirements include having a minimum 2.8 cumulative G.P.A. and sophomore standing.
McKerrow said one-third of the scholars must be from underrepresented minority groups and that means in southeast Ohio drawing from the Native American, African American and Hispanic population here on campus.
Jessica Cuffman is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.