McNair program seeks new director

Haley Clark, Reporter

The McNair Scholars Program at California Lutheran University, which supports students who are first generation and low-income or students who are underrepresented in graduate programs is currently looking for a new director. Program Coordinator Ashley Ayala said in a Zoom interview current McNair Program Director, Francisco Fuentes’ last day is expected to be Nov. 15.

“There are different groups that could be categorized as underrepresented, but we help these specific students become competitive for their Ph.D. and master’s programs. We give them a bunch of different resources such as a summer internship, academic counseling, and conference opportunities,” Ayala said.

Ayala said Fuentes has been the director of the McNair Scholars Program since November 2020. He has received and accepted a tenured track for a professor position at Ventura College. 

“We are looking for a new director. It’s really unfortunate just because he loves McNair but the opportunity of the tenured track position aligns with his values,” Ayala said.

Fuentes said in a phone interview students have had tremendous success through the McNair Scholars Program.

“It is a unique privilege and opportunity for the campus to have the program,” Fuentes said. 

Ayala said the candidate for the director role has to have their Ph.D. and experience with the TRIO program and higher education. According to Ayala, TRIO is a federally funded program which serves a group of students that are first generation, low-income, students with disabilities, or students who are underrepresented by graduate programs.

“They must have experience with serving students as well, I think that’s really important,” Ayala said.

Fuentes said the McNair Scholars Program went without a program coordinator for almost half a year before Ayala started in August 2021. 

“She is the first point of contact for the McNair Scholars Program,” Fuentes said. “The first person that makes the deep lasting impressions is the coordinator.” 

McNair Scholar Sloan Sanders said in an email interview the goal is to find a new director who can help the program be successful.

“Meaning that individual has a Ph.D. and plans on remaining at this position for years to come. That is the biggest priority at this point,” Sanders said.

Sanders said Fuentes has extended his stay at Cal Lutheran as the McNair Scholars Program director so he can then train the new director.

“It is expected that the new director will use the same resources and teach the same way,” Sanders said.

Ayala said one of the biggest challenges in the process of searching for a new director is the concern of applicants not having TRIO experience.

“I think that’s really important just because we’re funded by grant and there’s a lot of rules and regulations in that grant. If they’re not familiar I think that’ll be a lot of learning on their end,” Ayala said. “If they were to have a lot of TRIO experience and then jump into McNair I think that would be a little easier of a transition for them.”

Principal Investigator (PI) for the McNair Scholars Program Jesus Cordova Guerrero said in a Zoom interview he enjoys being directly in contact with faculty mentors and having the opportunity to share information about the program to them. 

Cordova said one of his favorite parts about working for the McNair Scholars Program is the research aspect.

“Even though I am not directly involved with students, I learn about what the students are doing,” Cordova said. “That is a great opportunity for me to know what the projects are and what the students are working on.” 

Ayala said the application regarding the director position of the McNair Scholars Program is available on Cal Lutheran’s job posting website.

“It has also been shared on LinkedIn and it was shared on the McNair Scholars email list where we sent out an email to all the McNair Scholars Programs in the nation to look for a new director that way,” Ayala said.

Ayala said the McNair Scholars Program has been looking for a new director since the end of September.

“Hopefully more applications are coming in soon,” Ayala said. “We did have one applicant but they decided to stay in their position at their previous job.”