October 11, 2012

McNair Scholars Program applications available

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale students who want to focus on research opportunities can now apply for a selective federal grant that will help them pursue graduate and doctoral degrees.

Applications for the McNair Scholars Program are being accepted through Oct. 30. The University recently received $228,000 for the first year of a five-year grant under the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program through the U.S. Department of Education. This is the third round of McNair Scholars Program funding the University has earned since 2003. The University has received approximately $2.3 million during that time frame.

The program serves students from two populations: first-generation, low-income college students from all ethnic backgrounds, and underrepresented minorities, said Rhetta Seymour, interim program director.

Since 2003, the University's McNair Scholars Program has served 116 students, with 104 students earning bachelor's degrees, 40 alumni earning master's degrees, and two former students earning doctoral degrees. There are currently 17 students in doctoral programs and 22 students who are pursuing master's degrees, Seymour said.

"The McNair Scholars Program provides a unique opportunity for students to become more engaged within their academic department," she said. "Working in a supportive environment students are involved with research teams and other creative projects that allow them to increase their self-confidence and grow as students and future scholars."

More information about the program and registration material is available at mcnair.siu.edu/.

SIU Carbondale was one of 149 universities receiving funding awards that total nearly $35.3 million. There were 306 applications.

The program is in line with the University's mission because of the focus on undergraduate research and outreach to diverse populations, Seymour said.

"Students gain valuable information and exposure that enhance their chances of success in graduate school," Seymour said. "The SIU McNair Scholars Program continues a legacy of excellence as students and faculty strive harder and push further in creating the next generation of researchers, artists, and social scientists."

The latest funding will allow SIU Carbondale to increase the number of undergraduate students participating in the program from 26 to 28, said Karen S. Renzaglia, the lead principal investigator who is taking over as McNair Scholar Program director. Eligible students are sophomores and juniors with at least a 2.75 GPA who are interested in pursuing graduate work.

In addition to helping undergraduate students excel in the classroom, engage in research, and form a partnership with faculty members, the McNair program provides a strong mentoring network and avenue for professional development, said Renzaglia, associate dean in the College of Science.

"I'm thrilled. I really believe in this program," she said. "What I feel best about is what happens during the students' experience as a McNair Scholar. These students transform their lives by doing what they never dreamed they could."

The program honors Ronald E. McNair, a physicist who was one of America's first African-American astronauts. McNair and six other astronauts lost their lives when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch from the Kennedy Space Center in January 1986.