January 20, 2004

SIUC selected for new outreach project

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Minority and first generation, low-income sophomores and juniors who dream of earning doctoral degrees in environmental sciences -- and faculty who'd love to mentor them -- are being recruited for an exciting new outreach program starting up at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program strives to remove barriers known to trip up students of color and first-generation, disadvantaged undergrads who want to earn doctoral degrees.

A federally sponsored and competitive program, it memorializes McNair, an African-American physicist and astronaut. He perished aboard the Challenger in the nation's first space shuttle disaster.

The project ultimately aims to increase graduate schools successes among those in the targeted populations along with the likelihood they'll land teaching jobs in universities and colleges -- where they will serve as positive role models by their peers.

SIUC may accommodate up to 22 student participants and as many faculty mentors. McNair Scholars will receive intensive exposure to environmental studies, focusing on such topics as environmental history and policy, environmental engineering and human adaptation to the environment.

In addition, they will receive in-depth faculty and peer mentoring, will attend a special summer research institute at which they will assist a faculty mentor with laboratory and field research, will present their research results at academic conferences, meetings and in professional journals and will work with tutors in anticipation of sitting for the graduate school entrance exam.

Applications are available at the SIUC McNair Scholars Offices, Woody Hall's rooms B-115 or B-126. And in upcoming weeks, those interested will find the application on the office's Web site at http://www.siuc.edu/~mcnair/.

Completed applications are due March 15.

Coordinators say potential participants may be sophomores or juniors who show academic promise and are interested in environmental issues in such varying specialties as anatomy, anthropology, environmental design, forestry, geography, health education, journalism, plant and soil science, psychiatry, public policy, social work and zoology, among others.

They must demonstrate a desire to earn a Ph.D. degree, be U.S. citizens and be low-income students who are first-generation college students (meaning neither parent or legal guardian has a bachelor's degree) or be a member of a group underrepresented in graduate education, such as African-American, Latino/Hispanic or American Indian/Alaskan Native.

Applicants must be full-time SIUC students and have minimum 2.7 GPAs. In upcoming weeks, McNair Program coordinator and SIUC scientist Karen Renzaglia will visit with potential faculty mentors in hopes of attracting up to 22 to guide student scholars and to include them in their respective research projects.

Faculty can also learn more about the program and participation guidelines at http://www.siuc.edu/%7emcnair/.

The McNair Scholars Program Office's phone number is 618/453-4581. SIUC is one of about 155 -- out of a field of 301 U.S. universities -- chosen to administer a McNair program on its campus. Participating universities are only selected once every five years.

Promoting excellence in undergraduate academics and offering progressive graduate education are among the 11 commitments put forth in "Southern at 150," a blueprint adopted to help steer the University as it approaches its 150th birthday in 2019.

SIUC will receive a total of $1.6 million to support the program's activities over the grant's lifetime.