February 09, 2012

Students can apply to McNair Scholars Program

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is inviting eligible sophomores and juniors to apply for membership in a prestigious academic program that honors a fallen astronaut.

SIU Carbondale’s McNair Scholars Program serves students from two populations, said Rhetta Seymour, interim director of the program in the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration.  The first population includes students from all ethnic backgrounds who are both first-generation college students and from low-income backgrounds.  The second population includes students from underrepresented minority groups.

Seymour said the program is seeking academically competitive students with a grade point average of 2.75 or higher. The program uses mentoring by faculty and others to support educational and professional development activities that lay a foundation for academic success.

“The McNair Program provides a fantastic opportunity for students to become more engaged within their academic department,” Seymour said.  “Students are involved with research teams and other creative projects that allow them to increase their self-efficacy and grow as students and young professionals. We are fortunate to have faculty and current alumni committed to mentoring our students toward academic success.”

The program is named for Ronald E. McNair, a physicist and astronaut who was one of seven astronauts killed in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. SIU Carbondale is one of the more than 200 universities that host the program.

The program prepares undergraduate students to continue as graduate students with an eye toward achieving a career as a professional researcher or professor.  It is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and since 2003 has played a role in the lives of SIU Carbondale students.  Those students have gone on to graduate schools all over the country, Seymour said.

Students apply to become McNair Scholars during the sophomore or junior year, with those selected participating during their junior and senior years. Scholars take two specialized classes and work closely with faculty members on original research.

Students work with mentors on individual research projects. Each summer, the University highlights this research at the annual McNair Scholars Research Symposium, which is the culmination of the eight-week Summer Research Institute. The institute focuses on research, team-building and communication skills, and more.

To apply, students should visit the website http://mcnair.siuc.edu to find out more information. The application deadline is March 7.