September 08, 2004

NSF funds 'Bridge to the Doctorate' program

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A National Science Foundation program aimed at increasing the number of minority students who earn doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is providing nearly half a million dollars to support 12 students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale this year.

The students, all in master's or doctoral programs, are receiving stipends of $30,000 each with an additional $10,500 per student coming to the University to pay for tuition, health insurance and other fees. Assuming the students make good academic progress, the NSF will fund both the stipends and supplemental awards for a second year.

The awards are large because minority students frequently hesitate to take on the debt involved in going to graduate school.

"With these populations, that's often a huge financial burden," said Karen Renzaglia who wrote the proposal for the "Bridge to the Doctorate" grant.

"These sizable fellowships eliminate that burden so there's nothing to get in the way of them concentrating on their studies and performing at the highest level. As a university, we have also made a commitment to continue to support them (past the second year provided by the NSF) as long as they are making satisfactory progress, though the support may not necessarily be at the same level (as the NSF fellowships)."

SIUC has a long tradition of helping minority students earn graduate degrees. For the last 10 years, it has offered such students a two-year financial assistance package that includes tuition and a stipend under its PROMPT program, an acronym that stands for Proactive Recruitment of Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow.

"We are recognized as an institution that can run these kinds of programs and be successful at it," Renzaglia said.

"We are not an historically black institution, but we have done really well in that area."

Enhancing efforts to recruit and retain a diverse group of the best students for graduate and professional programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Word of the NSF award came only four weeks before the fall term started, leaving SIUC scrambling to find students to fill the slots. Graduate School Assistant Dean and Bridge Program Administrator Patricia A. McNeil took on that task.

"I was calling people at home, talking to their moms, begging faculty for recommendations, telling registrars throughout the country that they couldn't take their usual five weeks to get me a transcript, and by the grace of God, I got my students -- I'm riding on Cloud Nine!" said McNeil, mentor to nearly all of SIUC's minority graduate students.

"This is an unheard-of blessing for us to receive this kind of money (to support graduate education). If I wasn't so old, I'd think about going back myself!"

Bridge Fellows (by hometown) include:


  • Juan J. Garcilazo, first-year doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering and a 2002 graduate of SIUC. He is the son of Jose M. and Imelda Garcilazo (1640 W. 38th Place).
  • Melique O. Hoover, first-year master's student in physics and a 2004 graduate of SIUC. She is the daughter of Michael A. and Alarice M. Ligon (7119 S. Erberhart Ave.).
  • Yoana Rosales, first-year master's student in geology and a 2004 graduate of Chicago State University. She is the daughter of Artemio and Ofelia Rosales (7103 W. 71st St.).
  • Kara E. Scott, first-year master's student in mechanical engineering and a 2003 graduate of Chicago State University. She is the daughter of Edward H. and Margaret A. Scott (2034 W. 82nd St.).
  • Reginald D. Teverbaugh, first-year doctoral student in chemistry and a 2000 graduate of Chicago State University. He is the son of Charles T. and Elsie M. Teverbaugh (10920 S. Emerald Ave.).

Des Plaines:

  • Elhanafi A. Shamseldin, a first-year doctoral student in engineering and a 1995 graduate of the University of Khartoum in the Sudan. He is the son of the late Abdelrahman Shamseldin Elhanafi and Naziha Elamin Abdelrahman (8811 Robin Drive).


  • Robyn L. Alexander, a first-year doctoral student in molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry and a 2003 graduate of Chicago State University. She is the daughter of Johnny Tolbert and Sherri Alexander (15736 S. Hoyne).


Narcrisha S. Norman, a first-year master's student in mechanical engineering and energy processes and a 2004 SIUC graduate. She is the daughter of Snovia D. Lowe (911 Second St.) and Moses W. Jolly of Chicago (643 N. Long Ave.).


San Jose:

  • Gretchen E. Flohr, a first-year doctoral student in zoology and a 1996 graduate of San Jose State University. She is the daughter of the late William K and Elsie M. Padgett.


Fort Valley:

  • Cedric A. Ogden, a first-year master's student in plant, soil and agricultural systems and a 2004 graduate of Fort Valley State University. He is the son of Foster A. and Everlyn D. Ogden (40 Chestnut Hill Road).

Hometown information was unavailable for SIUC graduate John R. Shell, a first-year doctoral student in electrical engineering and the son of the late Ernest and Bessie Shell. A 12th Bridge Fellow will be named in January.