When they found out about a new educational program to provide support for students in need to pursue graduate degrees, said Ronald’s brother Carl McNair, “We came together to lobby for the program, and for the program to be named for him . . . We wanted all people, particularly as relates to need, to have an opportunity,” McNair said.
The family already had a foundation in place at that point, Ronald McNairs’ brother Carl said. But when they found out about a new educational program to provide support for students in need to pursue graduate degrees, he said, “we came together to lobby for the program and for the program to be named for him.”
The program was named the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program in 1987, and received federal funding in 1988. It is now part of TRIO, a group of federally-funded college opportunity programs, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree. Carl McNair believes educational programs like McNair Scholars provide guidance and a model for success. “Seeing someone like you in a leadership or Ph.D. role,” he says, “means a lot to underrepresented students.”
“We have to have programs like those in TRIO,” says Carl McNair. “Without them, the nation is depriving (itself) of people with good ideas, which is what we need to keep this country strong.”
The McNair Scholars program began with just 14 programs across the nation. Fourteen more were added the next year, and the number of participants has continued to grow. The McNair Scholars family now comprises 179 programs, including five in Indiana, two of which are at IUB and IUPUI.
IU has participated in the McNair program since 1996. IU McNair Scholars Director Cathi Eagan wrote the initial grant application requesting that IU join the McNair Scholars program. She has worked as the IUB campus program director ever since. IUPUI runs a separate McNair program, which is administered through the Center for Research and Learning. “I’d worked with summer-only student programs in the past,” Eagan said, “and what I love about McNair is that it’s based on the full academic year.”
Most students become involved in January or February of their junior or senior year. The IUB McNair Scholars program places heavy emphasis on academic support and hands-on experience: If a student is earning anything less than an “A” the program will hire a tutor for the student in that subject area. Scholars are given the opportunity to complete a teaching internship and are encouraged to participate in summer research.
IUB supported 25 McNair Scholars in 2009-10 and eleven graduated in May or August 2010.
Of those eleven, all but two entered graduate school in Fall 2010.
A goal of the McNair Scholars program is to prepare low-income, first-generation, and minority undergraduates for graduate study at the doctoral level. Scholars at IUB attend a five-day senior camp during the summer between their junior and senior year which focuses on the graduate school application process, the types of aid available to graduate students, and survival skills for graduate study. At the camp, students attend workshops that offer assistance in writing fellowship proposals and essential portions of the graduate school application, such as a personal statement and academic resume. They also participate in an eight-week GRE preparation course over that same summer, then take the exam during the first week of August.
In the fall semester, students work on their graduate school admissions applications, application essays, and fellowship applications through the end of the fall semester. In the spring semester, the McNair Scholars program helps prepare them for graduate school visits.
Because the IU McNair Scholars group is a small one, Eagan says, “You get to know (the students’) strengths and challenges, and you work with them so they’ll be in the best possible standing when they get (to graduate school).” She emphasizes that the program is good for graduate schools as well as prospective graduate students: “The likelihood of success for a graduate student is way above average if they’ve been a McNair Scholar,” she said.
The 2009-10 Goals for the McNair Scholars Program
Set by the U.S. Department of Education:
- Ninety-five percent of McNair participants will complete research and scholarly activities that will directly impact their educational progression.
One hundred percent of IUB McNair students completed research and scholarly activities in 2009-10.
- Eighty-five percent of new participants served last year will attain a baccalaureate degree within three years.
One hundred percent of IUB McNair students completed their baccalaureate degree with a mean cumulative GPA of 3.39
- Seventy percent of this year’s bachelor’s degree recipients will enroll in postbaccalaureate programs this fall.
All, but one, of nine graduating seniors from IUB (89 percent) will be entering graduate programs in Fall 2010.
- Ten percent of McNair program participants will attain a doctoral degree within 10 years of the attainment of the bachelor’s degree.
To meet this goal, IUB McNair needed 3 McNair alumni finish their Ph.D.s in 2010; IUB had eight:
- Mari Dagaz, Sociology, Indiana University Bloomington;
- Jeana Decker, Counseling Psychology, University of Illinois;
- Nick Hillman, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University Bloomington;
- Whitney Mills, Psychology of Aging, University of Florida;
- Patrick Nolan, Clinical Psychology, University of Buffalo;
- Jeffrey Pearson, History, University of New Mexico;
- Rob Tayon, Economics, University of Pennsylvania;
- Edward Vargas, Public Policy, Indiana University Bloomington
The University Graduate School and the Graduate Office at IUPUI partner to place students applying to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative Summer Scholars Institute into labs on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses.
In addition, the Graduate Office facilitates the Bridges to the Doctorate program by financially covering summer housing for these students and by offering programming to enhance the ability of the students to succeed with strong applications to graduate school. The Graduate Office also partners with Assistant Vice-Chancellor Dr. Kenneth Durgans and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to bring students to campus for summer research experiences as part of a dynamic recruiting strategy. The Graduate Office has offered advising to the students and has helped place the students in productive research laboratories.
Each year in the middle of the summer programs, students in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program, the STEM Initiative Summer Scholars Institute, and visiting students in IU’s many Research Experiences for Undergraduates (sponsored by the National Science Foundation) are invited to attend the a reception for faculty mentors and summer scholars. The reception is sponsored by the University Graduate School and the STEM Initiative.
This year, the reception was held from 4:00-6:00 pm on Friday, June 25, 2010, at the IMU on the Bloomington campus and featured presentations by Dr. James C. Wimbush, Dean, University Graduate School; Dr. Karen Hanson, Provost; and Dr. Sonya Stephens, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Research.
At the end of July 2010, these students are invited to also participate in the annual conference for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), where they have an opportunity to attend workshops, discuss their research with their peers, and meet other students pursuing research for the summer.
In order to assist both applicants and graduate programs to find the “best fit” and a perfect match, “Getting You into IU” (GU2IU) was created by Dr. Yolanda Treviño, Director of the IU Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program and Assistant Dean of the University Graduate School.
GU2IU is a pre-application, fully-funded, early fall campus visit for underrepresented and minority Ph.D. prospects, underwritten by the office of the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs and coordinated by the University Graduate School (UGS). The goal is to increase the number of competitive underrepresented minorities that apply and are admitted into an Indiana University Ph.D. degree program for the 2010 and 2011 entering cohort.
The overall campus environment and relationship between students and faculty was great. I can definitely see myself at this institution after this visit.
— Prospective Student
Using the IU AGEP program’s recruitment model—AGEP is funded by the National Science Foundation—UGS identifies programs nationwide that prepare underrepresented students for doctoral studies. Students with strong academic backgrounds are then invited to participate.
In addition to a brief essay and transcripts, each application includes the nomination of a faculty member or mentor. GU2IU applicants also identify their prospective Ph.D. program and three IUB faculty members they wish to meet during their campus visit. UGS then forwards GU2IU applications to graduate programs who rank their offers of invitation.
If selected, each GU2IU visitor receives a personalized itinerary created in partnership by the graduate program and UGS. Visitors meet with IUB faculty and current graduate students, visit research centers and laboratory facilities, sit in on classes, receive information about application for Ph.D. admission and funding opportunities, and visit the Bloomington community.
The opportunity was invaluable, and I can’t imagine having to apply to other schools without having a similar experience.
— Prospective Student
UGS received over two hundred applications for GU2IU, and hosted 26 participants; ten in science, technology, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and five in social, behavioral and economic sciences (SBES) came for the multiple-day visit in October 2009.
Of the 162 who applied to GU2IU 2009, 65 percent participated in a faculty-mentored research program, 60 percent have presented at a research conference; and 29 percent have held an internship. The average GPA of the 2009 applicants is 3.43.
In total, 118 completed applications and 192 nominations were received from 165 different faculty/nominators from 114 different universities across the country.
Promoting the progress of science and broadening participation are two goals of the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF fulfills this mission by encouraging activities that stimulate new innovations while expanding a more capable and diverse workforce through the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) and other educational grant programs.
In 2009-10, the University Graduate School (UGS) added to this effort with the support of the Midwest Crossroads AGEP grant; the IU AGEP program is led by Dean Yolanda Treviño.
By building the pathways toward research careers for underrepresented minority students, Indiana University (IU) is actively engaged in identifying and supporting its promising scientists and scholars.
Broadening Participation: Recruitment and Admissions
Graduate programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines on both the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses recognize the importance of strategic and personalized recruitment practices. Through AGEP, new applicants for graduate admission have been identified and invited to apply beyond the traditional recruitment practices. AGEP has leveraged IU’s research partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities, added value to multiple summer research programs, and recruited at STEM-focused national conferences.
Broadening Participation: Retention
The AGEP program is designed to actively engage graduate students and faculty in programs that support academic and scholarly development, particularly for underrepresented STEM doctoral students. IU AGEP hosts campus activities and programs that involve students from the IUB and IUPUI campuses.
In 2009-10 IU AGEP kicked-off the year with “Professoriate Prep: After the IU Ph.D.” Bloomington and Indianapolis AGEP students participated in an interactive full-day workshop focused on skill development, preparing for the job search process and AGEP networking.
Student participants gained insight into the mentoring process from the faculty point of view as presented by Dr. Colin Allen (history and philosophy of science and cognitive science programs), Graduate and Professional Student Organization’s Faculty Mentor Award Winner 2007.
Great event! It was a Saturday well spent.
— IU Graduate Student commenting on the Not a Retreat But a Forward workshop
The workshop also included two hands-on sessions on teaching statements and how to build a strong teaching portfolio with Dr. Terry Tarr, IUPUI; and an AGEP alumni panel with Dr. Shani Gray (criminal justice, Ph.D. 2005); and Dr. Max Fontus (chemistry, Ph.D. 2007).
Each January in conjunction with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations, IU AGEP hosts its annual skill-building workshop: “Not A Retreat But a Forward.”
More than twenty AGEP students attended the fourth annual workshop focusing on “Effective Communication.” Dr. Carolyn Calloway-Thomas (communication and culture, IUB) defined the elements of effective communication.
Dr. Carolyn Weithoff (management, IUB) shared the process of persuasion and introduced techniques, training and tips in negotiation. AGEP students had the opportunity to put it into practice with Dr. Nancy Golfarb (philanthropic studies, IUPUI).
Dr. Shani Gray
“Ultimately, my doctoral research experience taught me that I have the tools (knowledge, faith, family, friends, etc.) I need to accomplish any task regardless of how big that task is. Even today I often refer back to the strategies I used during my doctoral research to assist me in accomplishing tasks; and I often also look to that time as a reminder of where I have come from and where I am going.”
Dr. Shani Gray earned her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from IU in 2005. She is currently an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Valdosta State University, in Valdosta, GA. She was recently awarded tenure.
Dr. Max Fontus
“Life in the Chemistry Department was not always easy, but I am so thankful for going through and completing that process…The idea of who can do Chemistry and how Chemistry is done has not evolved far enough in order to instill confidence in the few of us traveling this treacherous road, however, there were those enlightened souls whose vision kept pace with time and whose support was crucial in achieving this milestone.”
Dr. Max Fontus earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from IU in 2007. He then joined the chemistry faculty of the Undergraduate Medical Academy, UMA, at Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX.
“Tools of the Trade”
Feb. 5-7th, 2010
Hilton Suites Chicago, Chicago, IL
For six graduate students from IU Bloomington and two from IUPUI, the three-day Chicago conference “Tools of the Trade” was an opportunity for professional development and networking with underrepresented students like themselves.
More than 100 students participated in the 2010 Great Lakes Alliance for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (GLASS) Professional Development conference. GLASS is part of the NSF AGEP-SBES program and is similar to the AGEP program (Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate).
As well as IU and IUPUI, students attended from Purdue, Northwestern, Ohio State University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, and Temple University.
- Emissary training
- Professoriate Prep: “After the IU Ph.D.” Dr. Colin Allen and AGEP alumni, Drs. Max Fontus (IU Ph.D. 2007) and Shani Gray (IU Ph.D. 2005)
- Getting You Into IU recruitment weekend
- SACNAS National Conference
- NOBCChE Indianapolis Conference
- LSAMP Research Conference
- Not a Retreat: but a Forward: “Effective Communications Workshop”
- AGEP GLASS Conference 2010
- SACNAS: “How to Cope with All That You Need to Do”
- SACNAS: “The Pros and Cons of Your Own Funding”
- AGEP Workshop “Charting Your Course to Funding”
- SACNAS: “A Walk in the Woods-Sustainability at IU”
- New Emissaries selection and training
- Alliance Video Conference: “Creating Case Studies for the STEM Disciplines”
- AGEP Joint Annual Meeting
- GLASS Summer Workshop: “Surviving as an Assistant Professor”
Starting graduate school can be an unsettling experience, combining long hours of often solitary work with the challenge of finding one’s place on a new campus and in a new city.
That’s why the University Graduate School created the Emissaries for Graduate Student Diversity program in Bloomington, in which veteran graduate students provide advice, encouragement and mentoring to newcomers.
Started as a pilot project in 2007, the Emissaries program expanded last year from science, mathematics and technology programs and has now grown to include all graduate-level disciplines, with a focus on doctoral students. Emissaries answer questions from prospective students by e-mail, provide campus tours, serve on discussion panels and offer tips and information.
“We wanted to create a program that is run by graduate students, for graduate students, to talk about what life is like for graduate students at Indiana University Bloomington,” said Yolanda Treviño, assistant dean of the University Graduate School and an originator of the idea.
The program grew out of IU’s participation in the Midwest Crossroads Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative to increase the number of underrepresented minority graduate students and faculty in the “STEM” disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It’s also a way for the campus to personalize the process of reaching out to new students. While colleges and universities devote extensive resources to new undergraduates, the recruitment and orientation of graduate students is often centered in academic departments, which can use help from groups such as the Emissaries.
“We see this group, and the dedication of these people, as really central to the recruiting process,” said Maxine Watson, associate dean of the University Graduate School.
The IU Web page for the program—graduate.indiana.edu/emissaries.php—includes profiles of eight Emissaries, each with an “ask me a question” e-mail link; a student-written blog titled Graduate Student Life at IU; and a half dozen self-guided walking tours of campus, designed by graduate students, with themes such as “Family Fun” and “Campus Treasures.”
Nikole Miller, a doctoral student in the Department of Linguistics, was an Emissary in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Having grown up in Georgia and earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama, she said her biggest challenge at IU was adjusting to the midwestern winters.
“I think the main concern that people have is, ‘If I go to graduate school, can I have a life besides being a graduate student?’” Miller said. Her answer: You can, but it takes focusing on time management and giving yourself permission to take time off to relax or go to a movie.
Emissary Carlos Zednik, a doctoral student in cognitive science who grew up in Vienna, Austria, said some graduate students have concerns about what there will be to do in Indiana. He assures them that Bloomington has good restaurants, cultural amenities and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Zednik also fields questions about the common graduate student concern of managing long-distance relationships. His wife works in Chicago, forcing weekend trips to spend time together.
Lewis Jones, an Emissary who is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, also is married and has a 4-year-old son. He lives in Indianapolis and commutes daily to Bloomington to take and teach classes. Not surprisingly, he said learning to manage time was his biggest adjustment in graduate school.
“It’s not hard to do,” he said. “It’s just a matter of saying you want to do it.”
Jones, who benefited from the McNair Scholars Program as an undergraduate at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said being an Emissary is, for him, “one opportunity to give back.”
“Any prospective student can come and talk to us, and they will get a better view of what campus life is like for all graduate students,” he said.
For more on each Emissary:
Emissaries for Graduate Student Diversity
Graduate Student Life at IU Blog
IU AGEP News
McNair Scholars Program
The IU Midwest Crossroads AGEP Program
STEM Initiative Summer Scholars Institute