Texas Tech University

McNair Scholars Program Successfully Prepares Red Raiders for Grad School

Amanda Castro-Crist

November 5, 2019

After just one year, every scholar who applied to a graduate school was accepted.

In May 2018, the Texas Tech University McNair Scholars Program welcomed its first cohort of scholars with a main objective: to prepare undergraduate students – specifically those from historically underrepresented groups who demonstrate strong academic potential for graduate research – to successfully apply for acceptance into graduate school. That first group of scholars was joined by a second cohort in August 2018.

Just one year later, those within the program aren't just reaching that main goal – they're exceeding it.

"Eight of our 11 seniors applied to graduate schools around the country, including Texas Tech, the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, Lehigh University, Texas State University and Stephen F. Austin University," said Jon Crider, director of the program, which is housed within the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. "Every single one who applied was accepted."

McNair Scholars
2018 McNair Scholars and director Jon Crider

This year, the program includes 13 returning scholars and a cohort of 13 new scholars from various colleges and schools at Texas Tech. The program was made possible by a five-year, $1.16-million grant awarded in 2017 from the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, named after a NASA astronaut killed in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. The program is one of eight educational-opportunity programs within the U.S. Department of Education's Federal TRIO Programs.

McNair Scholars are provided access to research opportunities with faculty mentors, research conference funding, graduate school application assistance, academic and professional training and an eight-week summer research-intensive internship and stipend. The scholars also receive assistance in preparing for their Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), along with exam fee reductions and waivers for graduate school applications.

During their time in the program, scholars have several opportunities to develop and present their research, both at Texas Tech at the annual Undergraduate Research Conference in the spring and at other institutions. In March, 13 seniors attended the University of Maryland McNair Undergraduate Research Conference and presented their research. In July, 12 juniors attended the University at Buffalo McNair Undergraduate Research Conference and presented their research.

Research interests vary among the scholars and include projects in science, technology, engineering, math, medicine, art and communication. They are facilitated by faculty mentors and collaborations with several departments and entities on campus, including First Generation Transition & Mentoring Programs, the Graduate School, the College of Education, the Communication Training Center, the Graduate Center, Mentor Tech, TRIO Student Support Services, the Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE), the University Career Center, University Libraries and the University Writing Center.

"Our seniors also have created a student organization," Crider said. "McNair Outreach will focus on community service and social events."

This year, Crider said the goal is to increase the number of university collaborations and the number of faculty members serving as mentors. Scholars again will present their research at several conferences, including the National McNair Research Conference, held during the summer at the University of California, Los Angeles. In addition to the new student organization, they also have launched an initiative to increase awareness of the program and support for current and potential scholars.

"With the development of the McNair Explorers Program, we aim to recruit first-year and sophomore students who are interested in undergraduate research and graduate school – we currently have five Explorers," said Jade Silva Tovar, senior director in the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. "The ability to explore and prepare for the possibility of conducting research sooner is important in providing more access and opportunity in attending graduate school."

To learn more about the program, visit the Texas Tech McNair Scholars Program website or email the program leaders at mcnairscholars@ttu.edu.