McNair Program Receives Refunding, Will Continue to Support Underrepresented Students


Wesleyan McNair fellows Eduardo Centeno ’18, Lorena Fernandez ’18 and Daniel Lee ’18 gather at the 25th Annual Ronald E. McNair Scholars Symposium at the University of California – Berkeley in July 2017 with Carl McNair, pictured second from left. Carl McNair is the brother of the program’s namesake, Ronald McNair.

This semester, Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which assists students from underrepresented groups in preparing for, entering and progressing successfully through post-graduate education, received a five-year renewal grant from the U.S Department of Education. Wesleyan’s program will receive $232,265 annually, for a total award of $1,161,325. The federal money is supplemented with an additional $50,000 per year from the President.

Since 2007, the program has supported 135 students all of whom were first-generation college and low-income and/or from groups underrepresented in graduate school. The program provides research opportunities and funding, mentoring, graduate school admissions assistance and academic support to students planning to pursue PhDs and focuses on students in STEM.

The McNair Program is one of eight federal TRIO programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO provides services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and assists low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs. TRIO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRIO projects.

“Every five years, programs are required to apply for funding, so there is no guarantee that Wesleyan will be refunded because it’s so competitive,” said Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the McNair Program. “We are pleased that the proposal earned enough points to be re-funded so we can continue assisting our underrepresented students at Wesleyan.”

Hendrix and Suzanne O’Connell, the McNair Program’s faculty director and professor of earth and environmental sciences, co-authored the grant proposal. Both have served with the McNair program for the past five years.

Participants are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have demonstrated strong academic potential. Institutions, such as Wesleyan, work closely with participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements.

“Our primary goal is to increase the attainment of graduate degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society,” Hendrix said.

At Wesleyan, 38 students have earned a MA/MS degrees, 6 MD degrees and 2 PhD degrees thus far.

Wesleyan serves 30 McNair scholars and welcomes about 15 to each class. While at Wesleyan, the McNair Program ensures students receive opportunities for research or other scholarly activities; summer internships; seminars and other educational activities designed to prepare students for doctoral study; tutoring; academic counseling; graduate school exam workshops; and activities designed to assist students participating in the project in securing admission to and financial assistance for enrollment in graduate programs.

At Wesleyan, TRIO also supports the Upward Bound Math-Science program, which is designed to strengthen the math and science skills of participating students. The goal of the program is to help students recognize and develop their potential to excel in math and science and to encourage them to pursue postsecondary degrees in math and science, and ultimately careers in the math and science profession.