The purpose of the federally funded Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is to prepare MU students who meet federal income guidelines whose parents have not completed undergraduate degrees and/or students from groups underrepresented in graduate education for graduate study leading to a doctorate. An advisory committee selects 19 juniors or seniors to receive compensation and conduct research or engage in other scholarly activities with faculty mentors from the areas in which they hope to pursue graduate study. McNair Scholars also attend professional conferences with their mentors, prepare for graduate school entrance exams, receive guidance through the graduate school application process and obtain information on securing fellowships, graduate assistantships, and loans. Participants learn about graduate school life, advanced library skills, and effective ways to present their work. Upon conclusion of their research internship at MU, McNair Scholars make formal presentations of their research to faculty and peers at the McNair Scholars Conference and submit a paper summarizing their work. Selected papers appear in the MU McNair Journal. Former McNair Scholars have completed doctoral programs at institutions such as Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, New York, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Wisconsin, Illinois and Washington University.
Internships are either for the academic year or for the summer session. For academic year internships, students work an average of ten (10) hours per week during the fall and winter semesters under the supervision of faculty members. Summer interns work full-time for eight weeks under the guidance of their mentors. McNair Scholars receive payments up to $2,800. The enthusiasm for discovery that students experience during this internship increases their desire to pursue doctoral studies. Through being directly engaged in scholarship and research, students receive individual attention from mentors who plan independent study for the student, formulate research issues, and help the students develop conceptual and technical skills leading to the report on the research findings.
Attendance at a national professional conference with their mentors ensures that the students have a firsthand experience observing their faculty mentors interacting with their colleagues and become acquainted with experts in the field. McNair Scholars witness the level of intellectual commitment and enthusiasm that many professors experience as they gather in a collegial setting. The McNair Scholars Program provides a small amount of compensation to each faculty mentor to help cover expenses at these conferences.
Within the course of the year, mentors perform the following responsibilities:
- Meet with the McNair Scholar weekly
- Develop McNair Scholar’s research/scholarship skills
- Supervise activities, assign tasks for the McNair Scholar, sign bi-weekly time sheets
- Provide motivation, support and direction for the McNair Scholar
- Take the McNair Scholar to a professional conference (not a mandatory activity)
- Assist the McNair Scholar with the following: research proposals, conference itineraries, oral and poster presentations, research papers
- Evaluate the McNair Scholar’s written work (research proposal, literature review, methods section, results and discussion and final research paper), mid-term and overall performance as well as the program’s effectiveness
Typical activities for McNair Mentors include involving the student in the day to day operations of their research program or scholarly activities; directing the McNair Scholar to appropriate seminars; helping the student make contacts with appropriate graduate schools and programs; introducing the student to pertinent professional organizations; involving the student in reviewing manuscripts and grant proposals; pointing out readings with which the student should be familiar; helping the student structure a curriculum vitae for inclusion in a graduate school application; and encouraging the student to think critically, ask questions, express opinions, and respect different points of view. McNair Mentors are the main contributors to the success of the McNair Scholars Program because they assist students in developing professional work habits, research skills, and personal relationships to assist them in future doctoral pursuits. Through participating in the program, mentors widen their network of campus colleagues.