The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded The University of Texas at Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement a $1.1 million five-year contract to continue participation in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. Additionally, the university’s Office of Student Financial Services (OSFS) has established a new scholarship fund for the McNair Scholars, which provides the scholars $1,000 for each long semester as long as they remain enrolled at the university and in the program.
The McNair Scholars Program prepares first-generation and low-income students as well as students from underrepresented populations and is one of two federally funded TRIO programs on campus.
Dr. Ge Chen, assistant vice president for academic diversity initiatives and the executive director of the TRIO programs at the university, said, “The McNair Scholars Program at The University of Texas at Austin keeps getting better and better. With the new contract, we have an even stronger focus on recruiting students in the STEM fields and our mentoring program has some exciting new additions, including a partnership with the award-winning Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium.” At least half of the students admitted to the McNair program will be students majoring in STEM areas.
Chen explained that first-generation college students do not have the role models that students whose parents have graduated from college have. She said, “In the current competitive arena of graduate school admissions, skills built through mentored research are essential to the continued enrollment and success in acquiring an advanced degree. The graduate and faculty mentors through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program will help our students develop the sense of belonging in the academic environment while exposing them to cutting-edge, innovative research.”
Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, believes the strength of the UT Austin programs comes from its outstanding staff which includes faculty director, Dr. Louis Harrison. “Dr. Harrison has a world-renown reputation for his work in mentoring. Dr. James Brown, STEM specialist and instruction coordinator will serve as advisor to the STEM students. Dr. Brown came to the university after a career in the technology field, working with some of the biggest names in the industry—Motorola, Honeywell and 3M. Dr. Darren Kelly who coordinated one of the model mentoring programs in the nation at University of Virginia, has joined McNair as the research and academic coordinator.”
Vincent also noted that the McNair students, who are a majority first-generation, low-income students, will benefit from the new scholarships. “We are also thrilled that Dr. Tom Melecki, director of OSFS, recognizes the talents, needs and potential of the scholars and is lessening their financial burden.”
Also new to the McNair program this year is a teaching academy that will help the McNair Scholars develop teaching skills and gain experience. Students will shadow distinguished faculty members and participate in seminars on teaching pedagogy, lesson planning, and syllabus development.