Applications are now being accepted for Southern Oregon University students who wish to participate in the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. This program provides a vital opportunity for students interested in pursuing a post-baccalaureate degree. Named for astronaut Ronald E. McNair, who tragically lost his life in the 1986 explosion of NASA’s Challenger shuttle, the McNair program is a federally sponsored TRIO Program operating in 151 colleges and universities nationwide.
Dr. Dee Southard was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at SOU in 2003 when she wrote a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education for SOU to join. She has been the program director ever since, and describes it as “a graduate school preparatory program.”
The program aims to increase “attainment of PhD degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society,” specifically in graduate education, according to the program’s webpage with the Department of Education. The road to acceptance begins with providing academic transcripts as well as letters of recommendation from professors, writing a personal statement, and filling out the application found on the program’s SOU webpage. After the application is reviewed, approved students are interviewed by the SOU McNair Program Advisory Council.
“They’re going to ask some questions you’d expect, but they’re going to ask some questions that you don’t expect, too,” said Nathan White, a Mcnair scholar and nontraditional student who applied to the program last year. “They do that, I think, because they want to know if you’re legit. Someone who wasn’t actually interested in the research topics I claimed to be interested in wouldn’t be able to answer those questions,” he said.
Following acceptance into the program, Dr. Southard goes over the benefits with scholars, and asks what they want out of their time as a McNair Scholar. From there, each student is paired with a professor in their academic discipline. The cohort begins each January when students are required to attend twice-weekly seminar meetings and complete assignments.
White equates the amount of work to a 2-credit class of “mental heavy-lifting.” Other benefits Dr. Southard describes are “financial resources for travel to doctoral programs, access to tutors, cultural activities, research related supplies, access to the McNair Computer Technology Center, and the opportunity to develop and conduct a research project related to their major.” Southard also mentioned that students who want to go above and beyond have an opportunity to participate in a summer research internship and receive a $2,800 stipend for their work. While the program doesn’t pay application fees for students applying to graduate schools, White notes that many universities waive fees for McNair Scholars, due to likely financial hardship.
“People need to know its hard, but rewarding,” said White cautioning potential applicants. “It’s not just getting free money, but anybody and everybody that wants to really get a PhD and is willing to do the work should apply.”
Applications will be accepted until Oct. 26 at 3p.m.. Students can learn more about the program at www.sou.edu/mcnair. If you have questions after looking over the web page, Dr. Southard encourages those interested to visit the program office in Susanne Homes Hall, suite 408 or to call 541-552-8310.