Grad school hopefuls ‘expand horizons’ as McNair Scholars


Rik Andersen

The Ronald McNair Scholars Program is designed to prepare students for the pursuit of doctoral degrees and to create future faculty.

Mollie Burtch, Reporter

Expanded horizons, increased opportunities and an ability to succeed are all part of the package when students join the Ronald McNair Scholars Program.

With only 18 programs in Texas and 151 across the United States, the McNair Scholars Program is a prestigious program with only 13 people selected each year at West Texas A&M University. This program helps further undergraduate students’ research abilities and gives them the opportunity to present their findings at a conference.

“The mission of the Ronald McNair Scholars Program is to prepare eligible undergraduate participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities,” Director Mike Cook said. “The goal of the program is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society.”

The students chosen are juniors and seniors who are motivated in their classes and plan on attending graduate school. Professors handpick the students who display the most talent and responsibility. After submitting an application, the applicants go through an interview process.

“Students must have strong basis for success which can be shown in their grades, but also, the faculty references are a big part of the selection process,” Assistant Director Victoria Salas said. “They must also have a strong desire to attend graduate school. The overall goal of McNair Scholars is to create future faculty.”

Anyone interested in joining the McNair Scholar Program may apply for several spots available this summer.

“The application process was definitely competitive,” Junior sports and exercise science major Daniel Hernandez said. “It consisted of a few short answer essay questions, acquiring two references and an in-person interview.”

Once accepted into the program, students will begin their research studies that the McNair Scholars Program funds.

“They will also engage in seminars and other activities designed to assist them in securing admission to and financial assistance for enrollment in graduate programs,” Cook said. “Students also have the opportunity to participate in graduate school visits and with the successful completion of their research project be eligible to present their research at local, state and national professional research conferences.  Students receive a $2,800 stipend for their summer research.”

The research, application and presentations take up a large amount of time, but many of the students in the program are appreciative of the opportunity.

“It has definitely expanded my horizons in terms of what opportunities to perform and has made me more confident in my ability to succeed in graduate school,” Hernandez said.