California Lutheran University has received the opportunity to be a part of the McNair Scholars Program, said Kelly Owens, McNair Scholars Program director and director of sponsored research and projects.
According to the McNair Scholars website, “The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded at 151 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.”
Cal Lutheran was given a $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish the McNair Program, said Haco Hoang, a political science professor at Cal Lutheran.
Hoang said the McNair Scholars Program occurs every five years, and this is the first time that Cal Lutheran has been given the opportunity to participate.
There are some requirements a student must meet to qualify for the McNair Scholars Program.
“Students must be first generation [college] students, from a low income household, or historically underrepresented in graduate schools or a combination of any two of the three,” Hoang said.
The McNair Program will not be limited to one or two individuals, Owens said.
“We will have 25 McNair Scholars on an annual basis and we anticipate about 12 to 15 faculty mentors. By the two-year mark, we should have 50 McNair Scholars in our program,” Owens said.
Professors at Cal Lutheran who were interested in becoming mentors for the McNair Program were asked to submit an application and express their interest in being a mentor, Hoang said.
“Mentors will help students with career preparation, planning and graduation of graduate school, but at the same time, they’re also going to help mentor research projects, too,” Hoang said. “We’re asking them to create relationships with the students over this two-year period.”
The hope is to have faculty mentors who will be present to help students through their academic career and through life, Hoang said.
Akiko Yasuike, chair of Cal Lutheran’s sociology department, is one of the professors at Cal Lutheran who has applied to be a faculty mentor in the McNair Program.
“The McNair Program is a very prestigious program and it’s not usually small, liberal arts colleges like ourselves that have the McNair Program, so this program brings a type of prestige we didn’t have before to our institution,” Yasuike said.
However, Yasuike said her reason for becoming a faculty mentor goes beyond the prestigious name.
While working toward her doctorate, Yasuike said she attended a university in Southern California that had the McNair Program, so she was able to see firsthand how powerful this program is.
On top of seeing how it affected her peers, she said she was able to witness how faculty mentors at that time helped their McNair Scholars. Yasuike believes it helped her realize how much work would have to be put in to her degree, but also how worthwhile the experience would be.
“I also know that we don’t have a lot of faculty of color, but particularly in California we have a lot of Latino and Hispanic students, but we don’t have a lot of Ph.D.s who are Latino and Hispanic scholars,” Yasuike said.
Yasuike has always been interested in working with underrepresented students, especially because she’s seen the many challenges they face in their undergraduate careers.
Owens said just because the McNair Program begins with students who attend Cal Lutheran does not mean that students are expected to attend graduate school at the same university.
“We’re hoping to attract students who are interested in a number of disciplines, and the expectation is that a lot of the students will be looking to go to grad school at other universities,” Owens said.
The deadline for student applications has been extended on a rolling basis until all 25 spots are filled.
Contact Kelly Owens, McNair Scholars Program Director at [email protected] for more information. Owens will also hold special McNair Info Sessions with office hours from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. each day during the week of Dec. 4-8.