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McNair Program Creates Passion for Advanced Education

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For students from low-income, first-generation and underrepresented backgrounds, the goal of a master’s degree and/or doctorate may seem to be an unreachable dream. Thanks to Cal State Fullerton’s Ronald E. McNair Program, those dreams are becoming realities.

“Before joining the program I knew I wanted to obtain a Ph.D.,” says Aysha Mabin, a senior psychology major with a minor in child and adolescent development. “I joined not only because I fit the participation requirements, but because I knew it would be beneficial to have support and learn more about how to reach my ultimate goal.”

“I was curious to learn more about conducting research as an undergraduate and eager to become more involved academically at the university,” said Ryan Hamilton, a senior mechanical engineering major, who learned about the program through a presentation by current scholars. The scholars explained how the program “had changed the course of their academic careers. They also shared their research experiences … through summer research opportunities, and that was the first time I had heard of an opportunity like that and immediately inquired about applying to the program.

“To be honest, the McNair program has been the greatest resource I have had during my college career,” Hamilton added. “I knew very little about the paths available to college students coming into the program. The McNair summer research institute opened the door to graduate school for me!”

Established on campus in 1999, the U.S. Department of Education-funded program has served more than 400 students. Each year, 25 students become a part of the program, which provides faculty mentors, graduate-level research internships and workshops and seminars about graduate school selection, research, technical writing, time management and other subjects focused on getting into graduate programs.

Participants also have the opportunity to travel to McNair symposia and conferences across the country, receive one-on-one advisement and support from their peers.

“Our program is designed to prepare to preparing these scholars for admission and completion of graduate school programs by giving them the essential tools, resources and experiences needed for success at the graduate level,” explains Patricia E. Literte, director of the McNair Scholars Program and an associate professor of sociology.

Mabin agrees. “Although I still have many questions, it is helpful to know that I have the support from advisers and peers within the program in finding the answers.”

“Already this semester, we’ve held daylong seminars on graduate school admissions and professional development. Scholars have visited UCLA, Louisiana State Johns Hopkins and Syracuse universities, and presented research at a variety of conferences, including the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science,” Literte adds. “Scholars also will be attending this month’s Southern California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education at UC Santa Barbara. In addition, seniors in the program are preparing their applications to graduate school.”

In the last ten years, more than 20 scholars have earned doctorates and more than 70 have graduated with master’s degrees.

Cal State Fullerton received $220,000 in program support this year from the U.S. Department of Education as part of a five-year award begun in 2013 that is expected to total nearly $1.1 million.

For more information about the program, contact Patricia Literte, 657-278-7367.