Thursday, March 24

Staying True to the McNair Mission

I choose this title for a presentation I did at a national McNair conference at the University of Maryland several years ago. I can’t believe that I have now personally worked with eight McNair cohorts - our new scholars are my 9th group of McNair scholars! Wow. As I look back over these years and view the outcomes in relation to the primary goal of the McNair program – to increase the number of traditionally disadvantaged students receiving their Ph.D.’s – we are coming up with some great successes. We now have two actual Ph.D. recipients (from the first and second group I have worked with) and nearly twenty scholars enrolled in actual Ph.D. programs. I say actual Ph.D. programs because the truth of the matter is – we have a ton that are in master’s programs and a ton that have received their master’s and then stopped. Of course in some disciplines, getting your master’s first is a necessary requirement. I’m hoping that some of our alumni scholars who have stopped, or never went in the first place, will one day return to school and pursue their Ph.D. We do recognize this might not be the true path for everyone.

I bring this up not to be pessimistic – again, I think we are achieving great success when you compare our averages with the national averages. Nearly 30% of students serviced since 2003 have gone on for their Ph.D. It is amazing, however, given the amount of resources put into this program that more don’t.

Maureen and I recently returned from Washington, DC, in which our primary goal was to lobby Congress for continued funding for Trio programs, including McNair. Of the Trio programs (including Educational Opportunity Centers, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math/Science, Talent Search, Veterans Upward Bound and Student Support Services), the greatest amount of money is put into McNair on a per student basis. I think every scholar who participates in McNair knows this and can appreciate that federal dollars are being channeled toward their success. With economic realities changing and being what they are today, I think it is important to bring this to the forefront of what we do with our students and our program here at CMU. Monies will only become harder to come by and we will need to have the data that demonstrates why this money is necessary to help students, who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have even considered getting their Ph.D., actually get one. That means that we need for you to take full advantage of these precious resources (that we are currently able to draw on) and make the most of them. The bottom line in my mind is that we need our McNair scholars to be true to themselves and we also need for them to take their education to the highest level possible and get their Ph.D.’s.

Our McNair scholars are doing this and I hope more will. The greater number whom stays true to the McNair mission, the easier it will be to convince (and the fact is that we will always need to convince folks) our Senators and Representatives that these federal dollars spent on McNair are well worth it. Like Maureen talks about in her *very important* post about our experiences in DC, you are all worth it. You inspire us. We hope McNair will continue to be an inspiration for you.

In closing here, I would like to add that as a personal goal for myself, I would like to increase my own participation (and facilitation) of spreading the word on why programs, like McNair and Trio, are so important for our local communities and society at large. I will need help from each of you willing to share your story and your experience to do this. Contacting the White House, sending letters to our Representatives, writing to our local papers and placing Op-Ed pieces - these are all very important ways of raising awareness and underscoring the need for such investments in higher education for all.

Here are several links to op-ed pieces recently posted on The Hill’s Congress Blog by Trio alumni which show what I’m talking about. There are also some very interesting comment threads, which incidentally, underscore the need for you to voice your own opinions on the subject. Check them out!

The student between the line items

Proof that Education department policies help students

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