The UC Davis McNair Scholars Program is designed to alleviate the graduate school application process for 18 to 20 students who come from underprivileged backgrounds.
The McNair Scholars Program is a two-year scholarly program funded by the U.S. Department of Education and TRIO. Henry Covarrubias, the director of the UC Davis McNair Scholars Program, described the different benefits of participating in the program.
“One of the direct benefits that we have at the McNair Scholars Program are the workshops and seminars that students attend that will prepare them for applying to graduate school. We connect them with faculty mentors on campus, so that when they apply to graduate school, they have some research under their belt,” Covarrubias said.
Covarrubias emphasized that the program is designed for students wishing to receive a Ph.D. for the purposes of becoming a professor or professional researcher, not for law or medical degrees.
Eva Reed, a senior English major and a McNair Scholar stated that the UCD McNair Scholars Program provided her with the confidence to apply to graduate school.
“[The McNair people] provided everything I needed to believe in the possibility of a higher education, and ultimately, a better me. [They] are dedicated to the scholar’s success, and they will do whatever it takes to make graduate school a reality for you,” Reed said.
The McNair Scholars are paired with faculty members to do research in any subject of interest within their major, and have to give a 12-minute presentation on their findings at the National McNair Scholars Program Conference held annually at UC Berkeley.
Reed remembered the positive experience of presenting her research at the Berkeley Symposium.
“The scholars present their research in Powerpoint form in a competitive and supportive atmosphere. There are no winners or losers. Each student’s confidence is bolstered by being surrounded by friends and students from across the United States,” Reed said.
In addition to receiving research experience, scholars are given GRE preparation lessons. Jean Alupay, a UCD alumna and first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley recalls the preparation she received for graduate school as a McNair Scholar.
“The McNair Program provided lots of preparatory activities and seminars in our first year in a two year program. We met for two sessions once a week. One session was to prepare for the GRE’s and the second session was to get a better idea of what grad school is like,” Alupay said in an e-mail interview.
Students who are interested in applying for the McNair Scholars Program must meet certain criteria.
“There are three areas in which students can qualify to be a McNair Scholar. They can come from low-income families, be a first-generation student – meaning they are the first person in their family to go to college or graduate school – or they can be a member of an under-represented group such as a female majoring in mathematics or science or an African American, Native American, or a Chicano or Latino student,” Covarrubias said.
Students interested in applying must have U.S. citizenship or have permanent residency as well as a 3.0 GPA. McNair scholars must be in the program for two years, so junior year is the best time to apply; seniors who are considering staying on for a fifth year are also welcome to apply.
The deadline for turning in applications is June 30, however, Covarrubias said that they accept applications as late as August and September to accommodate transfer students.
“We specialize in attracting transfer students into our program, we have it written into our grant that 50 to 60 percent of our students that we enroll will be transfer students,” Covarrubias said.
Sandra Hanesana, a senior psychology major and first-generation college student, appreciated the assistance she received as a transfer student.
“As a transfer student, the McNair program was especially meaningful because I was able to meet and befriend students with similar interests in research,“ Hanesana said.
Covarrubias will be traveling around to different community colleges in California to talk about life at UC Davis as well as the McNair Program. Reed had the opportunity to go with Covarrubias to talk with community college students and recalled her own experience as a community college student.
“Many of the students in those communities are first-generation and/or low-income students who just need encouragement to believe in the possibility of higher education. That is all that it took for me – just a little encouragement; I am now graduating from UC Davis with my bachelor’s and on my way to graduate school to complete my master’s degree. And who knows – maybe one day I may even get my Ph.D.,“ Reed said.
MEGAN ELLIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.