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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

McNair scholars: a pathway to graduate education

Photo by Erin Stocklin Photography
McNair Scholars at the University of Maryland Baltimore Country.

Before becoming a part of the McNair Scholars Program, Corena Smith, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, had only visited two states: Arkansas, her hometown, and Wisconsin. Now that she is a mcnair scholar, she has visited six states in one year and has toured over ten campuses.

The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded program hosted by the Educational Opportunity Program at Marquette. McNair supports low-income, first-generation and historically underrepresented students to pursue a graduate education.

“Students are working to foster relationships with a professor on campus that will be their research mentor, work on research, delve deeper into determining what they would like to focus on for their graduate career and seize the opportunity of networking with other undergraduate students and faculty professors when attending conferences throughout the United States,” Sarah Fouad, a McNair graduate assistant, said in an email.

Students apply for the program during the fall semester and participate in a seminar over the spring semester. During the academic year, students attend monthly seminars, meet visiting scholars and participate in student and professional conferences.

During the summer, McNair students will participate in an eight-week Summer Research Institute, a paid internship that provides an in-depth research experience. The summer institute consists of a week-long trip to Washington, D.C., networking with other undergraduates from across the nation and visits to graduate schools.

Smith said McNair acknowledges the challenges that some low-income students of color face, and gives them the opportunity to make their dreams a reality.

“Low-income students of color who are also prospective graduate students cannot afford to travel to many different graduate schools to meet with faculty and get a feel for the campus before applying, and that is so important when it comes to picking a MA or Ph.D. program,” Smith said in an email.

Jorge Montiel, McNair program coordinator, said the research opportunities McNair offers are crucial to prepare students for graduate school.

“We are proud that, since 1990, the McNair Scholars Program at Marquette has graduated 38 PhDs — that is without counting medical doctors and lawyers, and other professional and graduate degrees,” Montiel said in an email.

Sarah Fouad helps coordinate events for McNair students to participate in the local community. She also functions as a mentor to the scholars by providing guidance on graduate school applications and developing coping skills for the transition from undergraduate life to graduate school.

Fouad said the best part of her job is being about to see her students gain confidence in their skills to present their research.

“Many of my students are often shy in the beginning to present their research as they are nervous, but through coaching and encouragement the students become more confident and energized about presenting their research,” Fouad said in an email.

Montiel said one of the goals for McNair this year is to build more institutional relationships with other undergraduate research programs at Marquette.

“The plan is to create an undergraduate research pipeline where students can work on a research project for at least two years, which would help them develop closer faculty-student relationships,” Montiel said in an email.

McNair students work to build a relationship with a professor on campus that will serve as their research mentor.

“We would like for faculty members to learn about the importance McNair Scholars Program. Faculty are important for us because they can promote undergraduate students for participation in the program and because they serve as mentors for our scholars. We appreciate the support of McNair faculty mentors,” Montiel said in an email.

Smith said becoming a McNair scholar was the best decision and honor she has had in her undergraduate career.

“McNair has offered me opportunities I couldn’t even dreamed of having,” Smith said. “As a first-generation, low-income African American student, it is important to have a support system as you prepare for graduate school. Every single person involved with McNair became just that.”

This story was written by Hannah Hernandez. She can be reached at [email protected].

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