The five-year grant, furnished by the U.S. Department of Education, will support the program’s goal of increasing the number of students from underrepresented and low-income groups who pursue graduate degrees.
Winny Dong, program director and materials engineering professor, says the program could not exist without external funding, which helps pay for individual student research costs.
“We do get significant support from the university, but the bulk of the funding comes from these grants,” Dong says.
During the course of the year, 27 students are matched with faculty members for yearlong research projects. Students take weekly workshops on navigating the graduate school application process. During the summer, students continue their research, go on field trips to museums and attend conferences. McNair students often bond with each other over their shared experiences.
“We are preparing them academically, emotionally, and socially for graduate work,” Dong says.
Anthony Juarez, a fifth-year political science and biology student, says that the information he received in the workshops was immensely helpful, as well as working with his mentor Jill Hargis, assistant professor of political science.
“Without the McNair program, I would be particularly lost in the grad school process,” Juarez says.
The grant renewal is due in part to the success rate of the program: 20 percent of McNair scholars eventually earn a doctoral degree, compared to less than 1 percent of the overall student population at Cal Poly Pomona. Many McNair scholars go onto prestigious graduate programs at universities such as UCLA or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
For more information about the program, visit www.cpp.edu/~mcnair/index.html.
(Photo: Annette Hernandez, a senior agronomy major and McNair Scholar, with watermelons she helped grow as part of an enterprise project with other College of Agriculture students at Cal Poly Pomona. August 19, 2008.)