McNair Scholars Wed, 07 Sep 2022 21:04:44 +0000 en hourly 1 McNair Association of Professionals (MAP)- New Website and Look Wed, 07 Sep 2022 21:03:01 +0000

The McNair Association of Professionals (MAP) is the representative body for TRIO professionals from colleges, universities, and agencies that host the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. MAP is dedicated to fostering and promoting high standards of professional practices and advocating for McNair Scholars Programs at the national level by creating opportunities for educational personnel and participants (students and alumni) with professional development and support.

The mission is accomplished through cultivating a vibrant professional community by collaborating and offering professional development to advance the objectives of the federal TRIO McNair Scholars Program of undergraduate research and doctoral attainment for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students in higher education.

Click here to be directed to the McNair Association of Professionals website.

UNG Cyber talent earns Hayes full ride to graduate school Mon, 15 Mar 2021 16:28:53 +0000
UNG alumnus Thomas Hayes earned a full-ride graduate school scholarship through the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program. He is pursuing a master’s degree in cybersecurity and privacy at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Thomas Hayes left no stone unturned when it came to building his credentials and helping others while he was a student at the University of North Georgia (UNG). Now, the December 2020 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in information systems has parlayed those qualities into a prestigious full-ride graduate school scholarship.

Hayes is pursuing a master’s degree in cybersecurity and privacy at New Jersey Institute of Technology through the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, which covers full tuition, a $34,000 annual stipend, health insurance, and money for professional development and textbooks. Funded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the scholarship is designed to recruit and train the next generation of information technology professionals, industrial control system security professionals, and security managers to meet the cybersecurity needs of all levels of government.

Dr. Richelle Oakley, associate professor of information systems at UNG, mentored Hayes through the McNair Scholars Program. She recalls him juggling his senior year coursework, studying for and earning the CompTIA Security+ certificate, mentoring high school students, and applying for graduate school.

“Over the time that we worked together with the McNair program, Thomas learned how to maximize his time management skills to effectively engage in multiple tasks at once,” Oakley said.

The McNair Program is designed to prepare sophomores, juniors and seniors from all UNG campuses for post-graduate studies through involvement in research and scholarly activities.

Hayes’ McNair research focused on mitigating the spread of misinformation on social media by examining whether a list of related articles could change people’s likelihood to believe false information. He presented this research at an information systems conference and submitted the paper to a business journal for publication.

He also took part in the 2019 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, where he researched public awareness of cybersecurity careers. During an online National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates through North Dakota State University in summer 2020, he coded software to calculate credibility scores for simulated social media accounts.

Hayes credits a mindset of constant learning for his trajectory.

“I love a challenge, and I’m good at researching how to do different things,” Hayes said. “I’m a quick learner, and I’m not afraid to call myself a beginner. I like to be on the cutting edge as much as possible.”

Dr. Bryan Dawson, principal investigator for the McNair Scholars Program at UNG, appreciated the way Hayes worked with Upward Bound students and served as a research ambassador for the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.

Hayes’ acumen for tackling major tasks also impressed Dawson.

“He’s very self-motivated and determined. When given a directive, he’s very quick to break it down to its basic components,” Dawson said. “He makes a plan and timeline, and he is clear in terms of following up and asking for feedback.”

A reverse engineering course with Dr. Bryson Payne, professor of computer science and director of UNG’s Center for Cyber Operations Education, during Hayes’ final undergraduate semester helped prepare him for graduate studies.

“Thomas is a great example of the kind of cyber leader UNG is known for producing, serving as a mentor and tutor to first-generation college students and helping lead our cyber competition teams to win the NSA Codebreaker Challenge for a second year in a row,” Payne said.

Hayes has provided the blueprint for others at UNG to follow.

“He served as a role model for our other McNair students. He showed other students this is possible,” Dawson said. “I know he’s going to succeed. He’s really well set-up.”

~ Article written on March 12, 2021 by Clark Leonard and originally featured on the University of North Georgia Online Newsroom.

John Jay Scholar Recognized in Celebration of Women’s History Month. Mon, 15 Mar 2021 06:51:44 +0000 In honor of Women’s History Month, members of our community have taken the time to recognize some very special “John Jay Heroines” among us. These talented women inspire us every day through their innovative thinking, strength, good humor, resiliency, determination, and empathy. Below are the moving tributes from each of their nominators.

(left to right) Evalaurene Jean-Charles and Ernest Lee

John Jay Heroine: Evalaurene Jean-Charles ’20, alumna and McNair Scholar
Nominator: Ernest Lee, Associate Director/Adjunct Assistant Professor, McNair Program/Political Science & Africana Studies Departments 

How does she inspire you? I am inspired by Evalaurene Jean-Charles’ passion, leadership and activism in the field of education. She believes that all children, particularly Black children, deserve equity in our educational institutions, and she’s working to ensure that there are policies and curriculum in place so that equity can be achieved. As an undergraduate, education was the focus of her McNair research and graduate school search. Eva was accepted to Ohio State’s doctoral program in Educational Policy, but deferred to work with Teach for America. Currently, she is a second-year Special Education Teacher at a charter school. In addition to teaching, Eva co-founded with her father the podcast Black on Black Education, which is dedicated to, “revolutionizing and recreating education in the Black community.” 

~ Select segment was pulled from original article posted online on the John Jay College of Criminal Justice website.

Baylor Adapts for Successful 2020 Research Conference Mon, 15 Mar 2021 06:33:24 +0000

Baylor University’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, known nationally as the McNair Scholars Program, helps first-generation students and students from underrepresented populations navigate a path through their undergraduate degree with the goal of acceptance into a Ph.D. program. Launched at Baylor in the 2017-2018 academic year after receiving a grant from the Department of Education, the program has had an incredibly positive impact on the students enrolled. Despite significant headwinds, the 2020 school year has proven to be no different.

The annual Baylor McNair Research Conference draws students from more than 50 different universities nationwide and is one of the ways the program provides students with an opportunity to put their hard work on display while simultaneously gaining invaluable experience. The conference is open to all disciplines and offers a platform for students to share their research and engage in select professional development activities. Students like, senior McNair Scholars Morgan Koziol, professional writing and rhetoric major, and Danielle Sanchez, history major, were able to participate in this year’s event. The conference isn’t limited to McNair Scholars, however. Students who participate in faculty-mentored undergraduate research but are not a part of the McNair Program are equally encouraged to participate. Not all undergraduate students know how to gain access to research opportunities, and it can be challenging to find a forum to present the research they conduct.

“There is an entire national community of students breaking into higher levels of education and making their families proud, and it is special to come together and share our work. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology, and research is crucial to this graduate degree. Conferences allow me to present my work and receive feedback so that I can improve as a scholar,” Koziol said.

The conference is designed with the McNair Scholars Program mission in mind, helping prepare students for Ph.D. work after graduation by providing them experience presenting their research in a conference environment. Students are able to give their presentations to more than 300 attendees made up of peers and faculty mentors. This accomplishes the twofold task of equipping students for a future of publicly displaying their research findings and, by giving them a place to be heard and have their hard work acknowledged, serving to extinguish the imposter syndrome that can sometimes plague burgeoning researchers.

“The Baylor McNair Undergraduate Research Conference serves as a culmination of everything that the McNair program tries to instill in us — that we matter, and what we care about and research matters. Being able to present my research in a professional setting to a large community of my peers and colleagues is an incredible experience that has helped me realize I can be successful as a researcher and truly work and live my passion for history and for research,” said Sanchez. In addition to having a forum in which to present their research, students also have access to a host of professional development opportunities including a graduate school fair and workshop, networking opportunities, a graduate student panel and a keynote address. 

Steven Fernandez is the McNair Scholars Program director at Baylor and leads the team responsible for putting the conference together, which, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19-related safety regulations, was able to execute a successful online event. By taking advantage of digital platforms, the team was able to host several programs and universities from coast to coast who would traditionally not be able to attend a conference in Waco.

“One of the core aspects of the McNair Scholars Program is that it equips students with the tools they need to pursue their passions, and I think the conference does a great job of helping us do that. Our students come from diverse backgrounds but are really unified by their shared desire to pursue that graduate degree and chase their dreams. We work hard to connect students with myriad different resources, including faculty mentorship and undergraduate research, which can be pivotal for the success of our students as they advance to that next step,” Said Fernandez.

For more information about the Baylor McNair Scholars Program, visit

~ Article originally posted on Baylor News Online on December 17, 2020.

Mom’s Ailment Inspires Trustees’ Winner to Pursue Research Wed, 10 Feb 2021 01:36:55 +0000

Kayla Nguyen knows first-hand the challenges that come with being a first-generation college student. For Nguyen, it’s occasionally compounded by being a first-generation American.

One of those challenges was trying to explain to her family why she is pursuing her Ph.D. after she graduates from Cal State San Marcos with a bachelor’s in biotechnology next May.

“It’s hard because I have to explain it in Vietnamese and I don’t know any of the words for things like ‘grad school’ or ‘neuroscience research,’ those type of things,” said Nguyen, whose family immigrated from Vietnam in the 1980s. “No one ever says those things.”

Nguyen overcame that particular obstacle with some help from Google Translate. She has become adept at overcoming obstacles since graduating from high school seven years ago, when she had to juggle school and three jobs to help her ailing mother.

Nguyen is being recognized this week for her accomplishments with the 2020 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, the California State University’s highest recognition of student accomplishment. Students are selected for demonstrating superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need.

The CSU recognizes 23 students every year – one from each CSU campus – with the Trustees’ Award, which includes a donor-funded scholarship ranging from $6,000 to $15,000. Nguyen received a scholarship of $9,000 for being named a Hampton Scholar, bestowed upon the Trustee scholar who scored the third highest among all applicants.

Nguyen and other awardees will be recognized during a ceremony as part of the CSU Board of Trustees virtual meeting on Sept. 22.

“In my 17 years of mentoring students in my lab, Kayla is one of the most positive and hard-working students I have had the pleasure to mentor,” said biology professor Bianca Mothé. “She is always bringing new energy and ideas.”

Nguyen was inspired to pursue scientific research to help families like hers that are affected by uncurable diseases and disorders. Her mother, Kimlien, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis soon after Nguyen graduated from Mira Mesa High School in 2013. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the lining of a person’s joints, causing painful swelling that can lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. In severe cases, it can affect a person’s internal organs.

Kimlien’s symptoms started with pain in her hands. She assumed it was the more common osteoarthritis, which is caused by mechanical wear and tear on the joints. But the family realized it was something more serious when it progressed from hand pain to Kimlien falling down stairs.

Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, medication can help manage the pain and inflammation. But Kimlien’s medication wasn’t covered by her health insurance, leading Nguyen to work three jobs and take a break from Miramar College to focus on her mom’s health and help with the $1,000 monthly medication costs.

When Nguyen returned to Miramar, a chemistry professor encouraged her to apply for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program, a year-long internship based at CSUSM in partnership with Miramar and MiraCosta colleges.

It wasn’t just Nguyen’s work in the program that stood out, but also her compassion for her colleagues.

“While she was a CIRM Bridges intern, their cohort experienced a traumatic event,” said Mothé, the program director. “Kayla was the first one to emerge with support for her fellow interns.

“Since being in my lab, she has developed her own project on a topic related to my specific expertise. She researched, thought through and brought the project to me. This is quite unique for an undergraduate. Kayla is the type of curious, motivated team player who brings me so much joy.”

Nguyen continued to gain research experience through internships in the academic lab of Lawrence S.B. Goldstein at UC San Diego last year and over the summer at Johnson & Johnson.

Throughout each internship, Nguyen’s peers and mentors stressed the importance of pursuing a graduate degree.

“I kept hearing that and I was like, ‘Yeah, but I need to work now. I need to make money now because it’s not OK the way that we’re living,’ ” Nguyen said. “And they said, ‘Yeah, but in the long run, you don’t want to be someplace and hit a ceiling because don’t have the degree.’ ”

Nguyen took the advice to heart and started exploring what it would mean to attend graduate school. In the process, she learned about CSUSM’s TRIO McNair Scholars Program, which prepares low-income, first-generation undergraduates and undergraduates from underrepresented groups for graduate school.

McNair Scholars are expected to have a commitment to pursuing a graduate degree, something Nguyen still wasn’t completely sold on when she began the application process. But the McNair team – including director Denise Garcia, assistant director Ray Malfavon-Borja and adviser Vicky Yan – explained that the program’s research opportunities would help Nguyen become more confident in her abilities while simultaneously lessening her financial burden through a program stipend.

“It ended up really changing my life and changing my perspective,” she said. “Being around all these other phenomenal students who work really, really hard and are in similar situations as I am – also first-generation college students – I realized, ‘OK, I’m not alone.’ They really inspired me and helped me realize that if they can do it, I can do it.”

As part of the McNair program, Nguyen will apply to at least 10 graduate programs. She is hoping to stay local – the Scripps Research Institute is among her top choices – to remain close to her mother and grandmother. But a university in Oregon, where her father, sister, brother-in-law and nephew live, is another possibility.

Regardless of where she lands, Nguyen now has the confidence to take that next step.

“I’m really grateful for all these experiences that really shaped my perspective of life,” she said. “And I feel really grateful that I’m on a path where I’m passionate about all the things that I do. I feel like that’s really a blessing for me.”

~ The original story written by Eric Breier was posted on September 21, 2020 on

COE Policy Seminar Virtual March 22-24, 2021 Wed, 10 Feb 2021 01:06:40 +0000

Virtual Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education — Monday, March 22, 2021

Take advantage of this opportunity to hear from the new Biden Administration and learn about its higher education priorities. This seminar for administrators in postsecondary institutions and community agencies provides information on:

  • U.S. Department of Education policies;
  • U.S. Department of Educational fiscal and programmatic regulations and reporting requirements;
  • The latest information on TRIO regulations; and
  • The outlook for upcoming TRIO grant competitions.

For questions on the Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education, please contact Angelica Vialpando at (

Virtual Policy Seminar — Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23-24, 2021

TRIO United for a New Era — COE’s 40th Annual Policy Seminar affords the TRIO community the opportunity to help educate Members of Congress, congressional staff, and others about the history and the success of federal college access and success programs. This event gives participants a chance to represent the interests of low-income and first-generation students and veterans, adult learners, and students with disabilities in the policy arena.

Important Note — The TRIO Alumni Leadership Forum and Seminar on Relations with the Department of Education will not involve any lobbying activities; however, certain aspects of the Policy Seminar will involve such activity. Therefore, federal grantees must allocate costs for these separate activities appropriately and in a manner consistent with their institutional policies. Please contact Angelica Vialpando at ( or Kimberly Jones at (, if you have questions.

Bring your TRIO alumni to the Policy Seminar! — Alumni participation at this event will give graduates the skills they need to be TRIO advocates at the local, state, and national levels. COE staff are delighted to help TRIO directors provide fulfilling policy experiences in Washington for their students when they are on school breaks. Students should not miss school in order to attend the Policy Seminar.

Registration Instructions and Deadlines

For individuals participating in the Policy Seminar and/or Department of Education Seminar, online registration at is strongly encouraged. Online registrants will receive an immediate receipt. Click here to register online.

All registrations not completed online must include a credit card payment, check, or purchase order to be accepted.

Special Discount — If you attended last year’s Policy Seminar and bring a newcomer to Policy with you, the newcomer can register for half off of his/her regular registration rate (Member or Non-Member). These registration forms must be submitted by fax at the same time. There is no online registration for this special offer.

If you bring a member of your institution’s Government Relations staff or campus/institutional leadership, their registration for Policy Seminar only is also half off his/her regular registration price. This does not include the Seminar with the Department of Education. Registration for this special discount must be submitted by fax — there is no online registration for this special offer. Download the paper registration form Document is available for download (.pdf).

Important Note — This half-price discount does not apply if you are registering for only the Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education.

Paper Registration — Registrations not completed online must be postmarked or faxed with purchase order, check, or credit card payment by Monday, March 1, 2021, to receive the pre-registration discount. For questions about registration and payment, please contact COE’s business and finance department via e-mail to ( or phone at (202) 347-7430.

Refund Policy — Registration fees paid in advance are refundable (less processing fee of $250) if written notice of cancellation is received/faxed on or before January 31, 2021. No refund requests will be accepted after this date. All refunds will be made after the seminars. Return by mail or fax to: Council for Opportunity in Education; P.O. Box 742282; Atlanta, GA 30374; Fax — (202) 628-3726.

Important Dates

Deadline for Early Bird Discount — January 31, 2021Deadline to Register for Alumni Forum — Friday, March 19, 2021

TRIO Alumni Leadership Forum — Saturday, March 20, 2021
Seminar on Relations with the U.S. Department of Education — Monday, March 22, 2021
Policy Seminar — Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23-24, 2021

Solana Beach scholar accepted to UC Berkeley McNair Scholars Program Wed, 10 Feb 2021 00:55:47 +0000

A Solana Beach scholar and native of Oaxaca, Mexico, has earned a place in the prestigious national Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program to advance her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley.

Karla “Ranger” Trujillo, former program and marketing director for La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc., will complete and publish independent research as a McNair Scholar ahead of her anticipated graduation from Berkeley in 2022. The award will help Trujillo move toward earning a master’s degree and ultimately a doctoral degree in education. 

The advanced degrees will complement Trujillo’s work as an anthropologist during the past 20 years.

In addition to her undergraduate studies, Trujillo serves at Berkeley’s statewide office for the University Community Links Network.

In Solana Beach, Trujillo partnered with La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc. to create Teenology Rangers, a youth and family leadership program based on science, art and nature.

“Her leadership, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, ethics and values have helped us to serve our community in a more significant and meaningful way,” said President Manny Aguilar. “She promotes trust with our native community.”

As a child, Trujillo attended public schools in Carlsbad. Later, she earned associate’s degrees from MiraCosta College in anthropology and university studies. Her education began in a rural town in Oaxaca. At an early age, she developed a passion to unite and serve.

As a McNair Scholar, her research will focus on how to provide tools for youth and family members to better develop as healthy individuals despite trauma that may be suffered. Trujillo’s Teenology Rangers program has demonstrated the power of science, art and nature as tools to strengthen relationships and build identity.

Trujillo herself has persevered despite the challenges of her undocumented status during the past 28 years. She attributes her resilience to having become a master of delayed gratification.

“It has been difficult but if I can do it, anyone can,” Trujillo said. “It is our duty to reach for the stars in honor of Ronald B. McNair.”

Ronald E. McNair was an American NASA astronaut and physicist. After his death in the Challenger explosion in 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald B. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage students from underrepresented groups in fields of higher learning.

Learn more at

~ The original story was posted on January 15, 2021 on 

Winthrop University Receives National First-gen Forward Designation Sun, 09 Aug 2020 15:58:59 +0000

~ The original story was posted on the Winthrop University website

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education – and The Suder Foundation, has designated Winthrop University as one of its 2021-22 First-gen Forward Institutions. 

The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences and a first look at the center’s research and resources.

“As a first-generation college graduate, I am keenly aware of the challenges associated with navigating higher education: the use of unfamiliar terminology, the assumption that one knows how to ‘do’ college, or that one even knows what questions to ask,” said Shelia Burkhalter, Winthrop’s vice president for student affairs.

“Student Affairs is excited to work with TRiO Achievers Program, the McNair Scholars program and the rest of the Winthrop community to think more strategically about serving first-gen students at Winthrop,” she continued. “While we look forward to advancing the success of first-generation students, the student success literature confirms that efforts to advance first-generation students will ultimately benefit all students on campus.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 33 percent of higher education students today are the first in their family to attend college. Winthrop mirrors the national statistic, Burkhalter said, noting that approximately one-third of Winthrop students identify as first-generation, when defined as a student whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have not completed a bachelor’s degree.

That population includes Imani Belton, an integrated marketing communication major and chair of the Council of Student Leaders (CSL), Winthrop’s student government body.

“Throughout my time at Winthrop, I’ve been able to connect with first-generation faculty, staff and students, which has made my collegiate experience 10 times better because of bonds we’ve created,” she said. “Being a first-generation student is a point of pride for me and other Winthrop students who have benefitted from learning on a campus that provides outreach and services for students like us.”

Winthrop has already made significant strides in first-generation student support and outcomes:

*The TRiO Achievers Program has supported first-generation students for more than 15 years, providing students with a variety of services such as personalized academic counseling, tutoring, individualized needs assessment and more.

*Since 2009, the McNair Scholars program has prepared first-generation, low-income and underrepresented undergraduates to be successful in Ph.D. programs through research, extensive support, and transformational opportunities throughout the junior and senior years.

*Within the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of the Vice President as well as the Diversity and Student Engagement office facilitate events to celebrate first-generation students and graduates (for example, among the faculty and staff) and to raise awareness regarding issues impacting first-generation student success.

“Through the application process, it was evident that Winthrop University is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future,” said Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

To learn more about first-generation efforts at Winthrop, contact Burkhalter at or Kinyata Adams Brown at

About NASPA and the Center for First-gen Student Success

NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education—is the leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries and eight U.S. territories. The Center for First-generation Student Success is the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students. Visit and for more information.

Baylor’s Graduating Cohort Prepares for Impressive Graduate Program Plans Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:55:24 +0000

Of the 16 graduating Baylor University McNair Scholars, 13 will continue their education this fall at prestigious graduate programs throughout the country and at Baylor in a variety of fields, including psychology, microbiology, library science and health studies.

Baylor McNair Scholars Program wraps up second year and announces new students

By Kaitlyn Rieper, marketing specialist, Baylor Marketing and Brand Strategy

WACO, Texas (May 4, 2020) – The Baylor University Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, known nationally as the McNair Scholars Program, is wrapping up an impressive 2019-2020 academic year with an inaugural national McNair Research Conference held in September and Baylor’s largest graduating cohort of McNair Scholars.

The program prepares low-income, first-generation and other underrepresented students to gain the knowledge and skills required to successfully navigate a path to a Ph.D. program following graduation through immersion in research and a variety of scholarly activities.

Baylor McNair Scholars are paired with faculty mentors who help guide student research and encourage academic development. Students can apply to be a McNair Scholar as early as their sophomore year.

“From our inaugural class to now, our McNair Scholars continue to be inspiring students,” said Steven Fernandez, director of the McNair Scholars Program at Baylor. “A huge benefit of the program is being able to break down some of the intimidating aspects of pursuing graduate school. Our faculty mentors are particularly key in supporting and inspiring our students and opening up opportunities for them in all fields.”

Of the 16 graduating McNair Scholars, 13 will continue their education this fall at prestigious graduate programs throughout the country and at Baylor in a variety of fields, including psychology, microbiology, library science and health studies.

Jesse Martinez, a fall 2019 graduate, took advantage of the spring semester to work as a research technician in a Baylor chemistry lab before he heads to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall as a chemistry doctoral candidate. He also has received Wisconsin’s Pei Wang Fellowship.

“Baylor’s McNair program had a direct hand in the number of graduate schools I applied to. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the resources, or likely the motivation, to apply to 10 graduate programs,” Martinez said.

Martinez recently received Honorable Mention for the 2020 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The NSF awards Honorable Mentions to meritorious applicants who did not receive Fellowship awards, but are recognized for significant academic achievement, making Honorable Mentions prestigious for the highly competitive NSF GRFP.

“Additionally, they supported my research not only in the lab, but at conferences and symposiums by bringing relevant events to my attention and helping me plan,” Martinez said. “During these conferences, I was able to meet key leaders in my respective field and make an early impression on them. I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t have received as many acceptances and fellowships as I did without the support offered by the McNair program.”

Graduating Scholars were accepted to top research graduate programs across the nation —Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, UCLA, UT Southwestern Medical Center, the University of Missouri, Colorado State University, Purdue University and more — with three of the scholars choosing to stay at Baylor in the fall to pursue degrees through the Baylor Graduate School.

“I was blessed to have been accepted to various graduate programs. I chose to stay at Baylor due to the experience I have had with Baylor faculty and staff. The McNair Scholars Program surrounded me with loving and supportive people who consistently encouraged, advised and invested their time into my success,” said Treasure Ramirez, McNair Doctoral Fellowship recipient who will be returning to Baylor in the fall as a doctoral candidate.

“I was gifted the opportunity to work with an unbelievably understanding, patient and dedicated faculty member, Dr. Emily Smith, professor of epidemiology and global health,” Ramirez said. “She helped me uncover what was always within myself: my light, my passion, my vision and most of all, my voice. Since I will be continuing my education at Baylor, I will be able to conduct research with Dr. Smith and many other impactful faculty members.”

The program, named for the late NASA astronaut and laser physicist Dr. Ronald E. McNair, supports 25 students each year through a Department of Education-funded grant. As the graduating Scholars look forward to continuing their academic studies, a new cohort is preparing to dive into research with their faculty mentors.

“We’ve had a very exciting year, and we are thrilled to be closing it out with such an accomplished and academically gifted group of students. Being able to watch these students grow and find the right path for them has been incredible. I know that they will continue doing amazing things,” Fernandez said. “The McNair Scholars Program is looking forward the next group of brilliant Baylor students.”

New McNair Scholars Announced

The 2020-2021 cohort of McNair Scholars and their faculty mentors:

  • Victoria Anozie, junior psychology major, faculty mentor: JoAnn Tsang, Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Triniti Armstrong, senior mechanical engineering major, faculty mentor: Michael Korpi, Ph.D., film and digital media.
  • Vincent Bozinov, senior neuroscience major, faculty mentor: Michael Scullin, Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Ryley Bruggeman, sophomore anthropology major, faculty mentor: Kelli Barr, Ph.D., biology.
  • Erin Cleary, senior health, kinesiology and leisure studies major, faculty mentor: Jason Paltzer, Ph.D., public health.
  • Nathan Cumberbatch, senior neuroscience major, faculty mentor: Michael Scullin., Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Princess Dang, sophomore political science major, faculty mentor not yet selected.
  • Jennifer De La Fuente, senior Latin American studies major, faculty mentor: Victor J. Hinojosa, Ph.D., Baylor Honors College.
  • Carla-Cristina Edwards, senior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.
  • Gabriela Fierro, senior environmental science, faculty mentor: Brian Thomas, electrical and computer engineering.
  • Tierra Foley, junior engineering major, faculty mentor: Keith E. Schubert, Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering.
  • Kaylee Hogness, junior anthropology major, faculty mentor: Davide Zori, Ph.D., Baylor Interdisciplinary Core.
  • Melissa Leon Norena, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.
  • Andrew Lindbloom, junior anthropology major, faculty mentor: Alan Schultz, Ph.D., anthropology.
  • Sophia Lopez, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Bessie Kebaara, Ph.D., biology.
  • Ethan Reyes, junior math major, faculty mentor: Robert Kirby, Ph.D., mathematics.
  • Alexis Simmons, junior physics and math major, faculty mentor: Jeffrey Olafsen, Ph.D., physics.
  • Batool Unar Syed, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

UNCG Honored for First-Generation Student Success Sun, 15 Mar 2020 21:09:10 +0000

~ The original story was written by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications on March 4, 2o20 was posted on the UNC Greensboro News website.
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications

UNC Greensboro is among a cohort of academic institutions nationwide being recognized for their commitment to supporting first-generation students. UNCG joins 76 other institutions in the cohort and is one of three North Carolina universities to receive the designation this year.

The Center for First-generation Student Success made the announcement on March 2. The center is an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education – and The Suder Foundation.

By federal definition, a first-generation student is a student whose parent or guardian did not graduate from a four-year institution.

The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the center’s research and resources.

“Now, in its second year, First-gen Forward institutions continue to lead the nation by their commitment to first-generation student success,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success. “The 2020-21 cohort consists of diverse institutions across the nation, and we are pleased to welcome UNC Greensboro for their long-term commitment and demonstrated strategies for scaling first-generation student initiatives.”

As a First-gen Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be able to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop to be held in Baltimore in June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more. After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the Advisory leadership designation.

“We are very excited to be one of the few schools in the state of North Carolina with this designation, and we want prospective students to see our desire to serve them and help them to be successful,” said Kelli Thomas, coordinator for Residence Life, who started UNCG’s First G at the G program and leads it alongside Shelley Wald, associate dean of students. “This designation honors the work of so many staff, faculty, and other students that have given their time and efforts to promote and advocate for first-generation students at UNCG. It is our desire that this recognition from NASPA inspires more students to proudly identify as first-gen and encourages more support for the students in our community.”

UNCG strives to be a leader in maximizing student success, opportunity, and access and was recently ranked as the top university in North Carolina for social mobility by U.S. News & World Report. In the fall of 2019, 31% of UNCG students were first-generation, and 25% of those students were considered to be from low-income backgrounds. The University offers multiple programs, events, and aid to support these students. Below is a list of some of these offerings.

  • Student Support Services This TRiO support program is designed to maximize academic performance for UNCG students who are first-generation students from modest income backgrounds, or who have a documented disability and demonstrate an academic need for services. Services include individual instruction in the development of academic skills; personalized academic counseling, financial aid literacy counseling, graduate/professional school guidance, and career coaching; and one-on-one tutoring in up to two courses each semester. The program is one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the nation. 211 students are in the program and 90% are first-generation.
  • McNair Scholars Program This federally funded TRiO program prepares undergraduate first-generation students from low-income backgrounds and students who are members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in graduate studies for the pursuit of doctoral degrees. UNCG’s McNair Scholars Program has 49 total participants, with 33 being first-generation students.
  • First G at the G This is a week-long series of events in November to help first-generation students learn about campus resources and connect with each other, faculty, and staff. The goal of the week is to make the transition into college easier for first-generation students.
  • Guarantee Scholars Program  As UNCG’s flagship student success program, it provides its participants a financial aid package that minimizes student debt, community learning experiences outside of the classroom, and personalized support though mentorship. This program works alongside its students to identify barriers to student success and develop innovative community-focused solutions. 75% of students in the program identify as first-generation.

“By being part of First G at UNCG, I am more aware of how first-generation students are impacted on college campuses and the amount of resources that are available to them,” said Kiara Hickman, president of the 1stG student organization.

Learn more about UNCG’s first-generation efforts at

Learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success at