Program puts graduate school within reach

Victor Odoh, a biology student at Florida A&M University, is interested in attending graduate school.

Odoh is utilizing the university’s McNair program to help him reach his goal.

“I heard it’s kind of hard to get in to a good grad school, and I want to be as competitive as I can,” said Odoh, who also said he has heard nothing but great things about the program and is glad he was made aware of it by a former participant.

The McNair program is a postbaccalaureate program that is designed to prepare college students for advanced degrees in graduate school. It takes place for 10 weeks during the summer.

The program teaches the students a variety of research skills. The program also provides mentoring, academic counseling, seminars and a $2,800 stipend. The stipend is not given out in one large sum. Instead, students receive several checks upon completion of each task given to the student.

“The McNair program is designed to prepare students for grad school and ultimately to increase the amount of students who go on to attain Ph.D.s,” said Lisa McCelland, director of the McNair program.

“Many grad schools are asking students about their research experience, and this gives our students more opportunities,” McCelland said.

McCelland continued by saying that the program is a great asset to those students who don’t have parents or family friends to go to for advice about grad school.

She said some students don’t have the luxury of calling home for guidance and are limited as to the amount of people to whom they can ask questions.

The program is named after Ronald E. McNair, one of the astronauts who perished in the launch attempt of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. McNair had a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from North Carolina A&T University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The McNair program has been in existence since 1989, and there are 170 McNair programs across the nation. The McNair program is a part of the TRIO program and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Low-income and or first-generation college students who are sophomores, juniors or seniors at Florida A&M University are qualified for the program. In addition, students must have a 3.0 GPA in their major and be either a U.S. Citizen or a permanent resident.

Along with the research skills, McCelland said the students also learn stress management as well as time management, being that every task they have to complete has a deadline.

“It’s just like having a 9-to-5,” said McCelland, in reference to how time consuming the program is and how disciplined the participants have to be.

Veronica Daniels, a former McNair student from Miami with a master’s degree in criminal justice, said, “It was worth all the long hours, especially because of the stipend, the experience and the bonds I’ve made.”

“It doesn’t hurt that they were always taking us out to eat either,” Daniels added.

“I would definitely recommend it to potential grad students in the final stages of their undergrad,” Daniels said. She described the relationship between herself, the other students and the professors as a “close knit family.”