YPSILANTI — The McNair Scholars program at Eastern Michigan University has been awarded its second, five-year competitive grant from the U.S Department of Education.

Named for the late Ronald McNair, astronaut on the Challenger space shuttle, the program provides advising, faculty mentoring, research training and a Summer Research Institute to support a select group of undergraduate students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree in any discipline.

“This was a rigorous competition,” said program director Heather Neff, a professor of English language and literature at Eastern Michigan. “The U.S. Department of Education decreased the number of McNair programs nationwide, from 207 to 120, so our selection as a site is a tribute to our University’s commitment to the success of students from the target population.”

The program is designed for high-achieving students from low income and first-generation to attend college, or from underrepresented homes, and who are preparing to obtain a doctoral degree.

During the fall 2012 semester, 14 new students were admitted to the program. Among the new scholars were an Eastern Michigan University Presidential Scholar, a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar, and several from the EMU Honors College. Their majors range from chemistry to speech and language pathology to forensic anthropology.

“What is exciting is that under the new grant provisions, EMU’s program may now recruit qualified first-year students,” Neff said. “Previously students had to be sophomores before applying.”

Among Eastern’s goals is to increase the number of scholars majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to forty percent, Neff said. The program will offer additional tutoring and advising support for the STEM students.

“We also will be strengthening our ties with Eastern’s Physics Scholars Program, the Committee for Undergraduate Research and the Summer Science Research Initiative,” said Neff.

To help the Scholars, the program hosts McNair research seminars for sophomores and third year students. The seminars offer training in research writing, presentation and publication. The students are then expected to publish research papers in the McNair Scholars Research Journal. All research is conducted under the direction of faculty mentors.

“The McNair program had a big impact on my last two years of school,” said Cherese Colston, a 22-year-old from Mt. Morris. “Eastern Michigan is a thriving, productive and supportive community. They are always looking out for your best interests.”

Colston, who is majoring in public relations, said she at first felt intimidated by the level of research expected of the McNair Scholars.

“By the end, I realized I could do it,” she said. “You learn about yourself and your topic of study as a researcher. The end result tends to be beyond what is expected.”

Colston graduates in April and will then enter the manager-training program at the store Target. Her goals are to work on a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at EMU and gain enough experience in order to work in Target’s public relations and marketing department.

McNair Scholars from Eastern Michigan can be found throughout the world, according to Neff.

Past and present scholars include:

* Victor Torres, a 2012 alumnus, who currently is in graduate school at Michigan State University. He is participating in a research internship at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital Center for Autism. Torres is working on three different projects under the direction of a faculty mentor, and hopes to present his research at an autism research conference.
* Aissa Laouan Wandaram, a 2012 graduate, works for UNICEF in the African county of Niger. She recently attended a conference about global partnerships to end child marriage.
* Latina Sledge, a senior scholar majoring in secondary education, recently participated in the Teach and Learn Korea (TaLK) program. Sledge taught at an elementary school in rural South Korea.

For more information, contact the McNair Scholars program at http://www.emich.edu/mcnair/


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