For the third time since 1999, the University has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Education to receive $1.1 million for the competitive McNairs’ Scholars Program grant, that aids students interested in attaining doctoral degrees.
The grant, named after Robert E. McNair, a former NASA astronaut that passed away on the space shuttle “Challenger’ in 1986, helps junior and seniors who aspire to attend graduate school by providing them with preparation for grad school and support services for their research projects.
The University will receive approximately $215,000 each year for five years and students admitted will generally receive a $2,800 stipend the summer of their junior year for their research.
Dr. Andre McKenzie Ph.D., the Vice President of the Division of Academic Support Services and the Project Investigator, has been involved with the program since she introduced the idea to the University, along with Dr. Frank Biafora, former staff member, in 1999.
“I am particularly gratified to receive this funding to continue our program,” Dr. McKenzie, the preliminary author of the proposal and “Father of the Program” said.
Despite ten million dollars in budget cuts by the U.S. Department of Education for the program and 304 nation-wide applicants, 134, including St. John’s, were selected. Every four to five years, schools must renew their applications for this competitive grant.
“The award process was exceptionally competitive this year,” McKenzie said.
“I firmly believe that our previous success with program participants was recognized and helped us in obtaining this new grant.”
Dr. Jessica Scott, Ph.D. entered the McNair program in her sophomore year in the fall of 2004.
Scott said she felt the program provided her with an outline to plan a pathway to her career.
“It definitely provides you with a structure,” she said.
“These mentors help us maintain our goal. Without it, I feel like I wouldn’t have the guidance.”
Scott is currently working at the Youth Counciltation Services to get hours for her psychology license.
Asnath Gedeon,Director of the McNair’s Program and former alum of the program, is in charge of recruiting and pairing students with the resources.
“The purpose of the program is to diversify collegiate faculty across the U.S.,” she said.
“We are specifically looking for students who are looking for a doctoral degree.”
Students must be first generation college students from low-income families or from traditionally underrepresented groups such as Hispanic and black ethnicities.
They must have good academic standing with a 3.0 GPA or better and must have at least 60-66 credits after their sophomore year. Currently, the University is looking for 25 undergraduate students, 10 seniors and 15 juniors, to participate in the program.
Not to be confused with a scholarship, inducted students will receive stipends to conduct their research expenses and travel to conferences.
Additionally, designated faculty will mentor students with research and presentation to prepare for graduate school.