NMU Selected for McNair Program

Northern will receive a federal four-year grant worth $880,000 to help prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. NMU is the first U.P. university and one of 185 nationwide selected to receive funding from the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

“It’s a wonderful initiative that benefits students who are traditionally underrepresented in Ph.D. programs, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas, history and English,” said Cynthia Prosen (Academic Affairs). “It’s designed for students we often interact with at Northern: those from low-income households who are often the first in their families to attend college and who wouldn’t normally consider graduate school. This gives them the necessary support to push them to the next level in their educational experience.” 

Prosen cited the grant-writing team of Andrew Smentkowski (Grants and Research) and Peter Holliday (Student Support Services) for putting together the winning proposal.

Northern will select 25 McNair Scholars per year. As a part of their experience, they will be paired with a faculty mentor, plan a research project during the spring of their sophomore or junior year and then conduct that research over the summer. Scholars will receive a $2,800 stipend for this work, while faculty members will also receive support for their mentorship.

“The McNair program is about more than financial assistance,” Prosen added. “The students will also receive academic counseling, help in understanding and preparing for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), and guidance on seeking admission and financial aid for graduate programs. As a dean of graduate studies, I’ve been interested in McNair Scholars from other institutions because I know they’re well prepared for grad school and have high GPAs. They’re heavily recruited. Now Northern will be able to offer this terrific opportunity for students. It’s exciting.”

The grant will support 2.5 positions: a director, who should be on board by mid-October; a coordinator; and a half-time clerical employee. While the initial funding is over a four-year period, Prosen said sustaining the program should not be an issue. “We have every expectation that this will be an ongoing programmatic offering at NMU. Usually once it’s established someplace, it doesn’t go away.”

The program is named for Ronald E. McNair, one of the first African-American astronauts. He died in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after its televised launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. McNair was born in a small South Carolina town, graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and earned a doctorate in laser physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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Updated: August 20, 2009

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