Grant available for first generation students


Akasha Khalsa

NMU’s McNair Scholars Program aids underrepresented students in research

Students coming into college from disadvantaged backgrounds often face the usual slew of academic and transitional problems, but unlike traditional students, they do so without the same support system other students expect. For students that are first-generation or of an underrepresented ethnicity, this lack of support and knowledge ends up making it more difficult for them to transition into graduate-level programs. This results in fewer of these individuals in the higher academic community.

The McNair Scholars Program, a federally-funded TRIO program aimed at increasing Ph.D. degrees earned by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, helps these students at NMU. By aiding in research and funding participation in scholarly activities, McNair prepares scholars for their future academic potential. NMU’s McNair program awards aid to 28 high-achieving students annually. It comes in the form of a competitive research grant of $2,500 for summer research. Senior biology major and McNair scholar Brittney Moore worked at NMU’s Upper Michigan Brain Tumor Center, researching breast and brain cancer. No one in her family has a college degree.

“Being first-generation students, we’re all sometimes like ‘ugh,’ and it’s different when you don’t have anyone in your life who’s ever been through what you’re going through. It’s different than having parents that anticipate how hard college is,” Moore said.

Moore will head to veterinary school at MSU in the Fall.

“You should just apply, even if you don’t think that you’ll get in… I didn’t think I’d fit the bill, or meet the criteria,” Moore said. “The biggest thing it did was increase my confidence, because working in research is really scary at first and it’s something that’s really intimidating to get into.”

Moore said having the experience provided by the McNair funding made her more marketable in her path to acceptance at a graduate program. Director of the McNair scholars program Heather Pickett said that out of the 101 NMU students who have participated in the McNair program, nine have gone on as doctoral students to pursue futures in academia and 46 graduate students have continued on for advanced degrees.

“By completing a research internship during their undergraduate studies at NMU, McNair program participants are more well-prepared than their non-researching counter parts and highly sought after potential graduate students as McNair Scholars,” Pickett said.

Senior biology major and NMU McNair scholar Ted Roper will be attending the University of New Mexico for a doctoral program next year and also feels that the McNair program was part of what made this pathway possible for him.

“Anyone who has an opportunity to [go to] grad school or [do] research should definitely try out. It’s awesome. It’s been good to me,” Roper said.

Roper conducted several research excursions, including presenting at research conferences and the upcoming publication of a paper. Meg Palacio, another NMU McNair scholar who is graduating this year, plans to attend graduate school at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Getting into a Ph.D. graduate program is not easy, but it becomes easier when you have resources, such as a McNair, to support you throughout the process,” Palacio said. “McNair introduced me to the idea that I could get my Ph.D. as a minority student. Prior to, I never even considered the thought, but now it is my current reality.”