UCF

UCF named finalist for the Excelencia in Education’s Example of Excelencia awards.

Posted by on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 6:30 - 0 Comments


The McNair Scholars Program at the University of Central Florida is a 2017 finalists for the Excelencia in Education’s Example of Excelencia awards.  Examples of Excelencia is a national initiative that recognizes effective evidence-based practices that advance Latino student educational achievement. UCF was one of 19 finalists selected out of 161 programs from 25 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Colombia.

The UCF McNair Scholars Program, first funded in the fall 2003, assists its participants in gaining admission to graduate programs leading to a doctorate.  Over half of the students who have participated in the UCF McNair program identify as Latino; 100% of them completed a bachelor’s degree, and 81% enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs. Among Latino participants, there are 11 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program Fellowship Recipients, two Florida State University System Frost-Oxford-Scholarship Recipients, an Udall Fellow, and a Goldwater Fellow.

“We are humbled and honored to receive this recognition,” said Michael Aldarondo-Jeffries, Director of the UCF McNair Scholars Program. “We are dedicated to helping them reach their academic goals. Our Latino/a scholars have exceled, and we look forward to continue to see them thrive in graduate school and beyond. We know that this program not only impacts their lives, but also their families and communities, and we are privileged to be a part of it.”

Stephanie Quiles-Matos is in her second year in the Doctoral Program in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. When asked how the McNair Program assisted her, Stephanie emphasized the importance of the personal and graduate school preparation support the program provided. Quiles-Matos stated, “Honestly, I would not even be in graduate school without the support and mentorship that the McNair Scholar program provided me. As a McNair Scholar, I was encouraged to participate in research, a concept I was unfamiliar with as a first-generation student. The McNair team helped me realize, that even as a non-traditional student, I could achieve my goals of graduating college and going onto graduate school.”

Laura Puentes transferred to the University of Central Florida from Valencia College, she never dreamed she would one day be accepted into Oxford, one of the most prestigious universities in the world.  As one of the 10 State University System students in Florida selected to receive a Frost Scholarship, Puentes will be awarded full funding to attain her Master of Pharmacology degree at the university in England.

Puentes’ ultimate goal is to work in the biotech industry and develop biological therapeutics that can specifically target diseased tissue or tumors without affecting healthy organs. After sge completed her degree at Oxford, Puentes went on to enrolled in the pharmacology Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Puentes was born in Bogota, Colombia.  During her time as a McNair Scholar she was encouraged to apply for summer research opportunities and was selected to participate in the Leadership Alliance internship at Brown University.  She credits the McNair Scholars Program for presenting her with opportunities to grow as a student and build her confidence.  “Through the McNair Scholars Program and with the immense guidance of everyone in it, I was able to not only set out a plan that would eventually lead me to graduate school,” she said, “I was also able to learn something truly unique about myself: to not be afraid to dream big.”

The national winners of the 2017 Examples of Excelencia will be announced in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5 at the annual Celebración de Excelencia.