Funding is Renewed for Trinity University's McNair Scholars Program

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Susie P. Gonzalez
Aug. 30, 2012

Funding is Renewed for Trinity University's McNair Scholars Program

Federal grant helps prepare first-generation, low-income students for substantive research

SAN ANTONIO - The McNair Scholars Program at Trinity University has been awarded a grant of $220,000 annually for up to five years to prepare first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students for substantive research in order to pursue a doctorate.

Initially funded by the U.S. Department of Education in 2007, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at Trinity has assisted and mentored 69 Scholars, including eight who entered the program this semester.

One of the first Scholars, Gordon Abner, graduated from Trinity in May 2009 and immediately started a joint Ph.D. program in public policy at Indiana University. He is expected to be the program's first doctoral recipient.   

In the current round of funding, strengths of the program will continue - two years of summer research coupled with year-round research with faculty mentors - and new emphasis will be placed on promoting STEM curricula (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and technology enhancements such as tablet computers to streamline efficiency for the Scholars. Ultimately, Trinity hopes to serve as a national model for using technology to support McNair Scholars.   

Michael Soto, associate professor of English and director of the McNair Scholars Program at Trinity, said he was grateful for the support from the U.S. Department of Education. He characterized the competition for funding as being "fierce."

"We're thrilled to be able to provide continued, top-quality support to first-generation, low-income college students who want to pursue a Ph.D.," Soto said. "The United States remains the world leader in higher education and cutting-edge research because of the quality of its faculty and students. The McNair Scholars Program and Trinity University are proud to do our part in shaping the next generation of leaders in higher education."

The program is named in honor of Ronald E. McNair, who earned a doctorate in molecular physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to become an astronaut. He died aboard the  Challenger during his second Space Shuttle mission in 1986. The U.S. Congress paid tribute to McNair's achievements and legacy by naming the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program in his honor.