McNair Grant Will Provide Support for Students Seeking Ph.Ds
The university has been awarded a TRIO Ronald E.
McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program grant from the U.S. Department
of Education. The McNair program will provide financial support, mentoring,
research opportunities, and academic guidance to eligible students who want
pursue Ph.D. study.
Laurel F. Appel, visiting associate professor of biology, is the McNair
program's director. She's excited that Wesleyan is part of the federal
program. It is presently the only Connecticut institution that is part of
"This program fits in with the goals of Wesleyan by broadening access to
research to all students," Appel says. “The focus of our program is on
Science and Math, but students interested in any field of graduate study are
encouraged to apply.”
According to co-grant writer Donna Thompson, director of the university's
Upward Bound program, the grant application process was "very competitive."
"Wesleyan is uniquely suited to host a McNair project because of its
interest, commitment to and success rate with underrepresented students. The
program is ideally suited to assist and equip low income, first generation
students with the tools that they will need to be successful in an
environment and culture where they will be a minority," Thompson says.
The Department of Education Web site states that the goal of the program "is
to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from
underrepresented segments of society." At Wesleyan, McNair program funds
totaling $880,000 will go towards helping first generation college students
from low-income families and students who are African-American, Hispanic,
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander or Native American prepare for
successful graduate careers, excluding M.D. and J.D. studies. Full details
of eligibility can be found
The program can serve up to 25 students each year for the next four years.
Junior and senior McNair Fellows will actively participate in research with
Wesleyan science and math faculty mentors, who will also help prepare the
students to apply to graduate school.
Eligible frosh and sophomores can enroll in the McNair Scholars program,
where they will attend workshops and receive mentoring from McNair staff in
topics such as developing an academic plan, getting the most out of
introductory courses, preparing for research, the ins and outs of the Ph.D.,
and career choices based on different degrees—all with the goal of helping
them become McNair Fellows.
Camaraderie is one of the advantages to being in the McNair program.
Participants go through the program with the same group of students, have a
shared study space and present works-in-progress to each other. The students
have access to career counseling and guidance from McNair staff as well as
their research mentors about furthering their academic career. McNair
fellows will attend professional conferences to present their research and
to learn to network, Appel says.
“We are very pleased to have the support of the McNair program, which gives
us another excellent opportunity to facilitate the academic work of Wesleyan
students,” says Joe Bruno, vice president for academic affairs and provost.
“The formulation of our program and the preparation of the grant proposal
were the work of a dedicated group, and these colleagues worked together
beautifully to ensure success in a competitive field. We look forward to the
implementation of a robust effort at Wesleyan.”
Students who are curious about the program can attend one of the upcoming
McNair Research Talks. The talks will introduce the program and “provide a
venue for faculty to talk to students about their own research,” Appel says.
These talks are open to all, and aimed at the interested, non-expert,
The next talk will be held at noon, Nov. 27 in Exley Science Center Room
121. Bill Herbst, the Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy and chair, will speak
on "Making Planets from Thin Air … Really Thin Air!" Herbst's subject matter
is fitting because the program is named after Ronald E. McNair, an astronaut
who died in the Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986. McNair, an
African-American from South Carolina, was an accomplished expert in laser
Applications will be reviewed starting Dec. 3, 2007. For more information
contact Laurel Appel at 860-685-3258;
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations