Abraham Calderon had no idea what he would do after graduation, at least not until he joined the McNair program.
“I wish there wasn’t a need for a program like this, but there is,” said Calderon, senior sociology major.
The TRIO programs (grant funded programs) target first generation, low income and underrepresented students and supports them all through their academic career. The McNair Scholars program is the final step in the TRIO family, explained Helen Barnes, McNair program coordinator.
The McNair Scholars program is not a scholarship but is a program that works with students during the last two years of their undergraduate degree and prepares them for graduate school. It supports students going from undergraduate to Ph.D. level degrees, according to Barnes.
“The opportunity for me to go on beyond undergrad didn’t even exist in my mind (before this program),” Calderon said.
Barnes said, the McNair program was designed by graduate deans, outlining the details a student needs as an incoming applicant for graduate school.
“Since graduate degrees, especially PhD. level degrees are research degrees, we train our students in that area,” Barnes said. “The first semester they’re allowed to define a research project, find a faculty mentor who’s willing to work with them, the second semester they’re designing a research proposal, getting approval that sort of thing.”
The summer in between the two years, is when students do independent research with a faculty mentor in their discipline.
“We also help them study for their GRE (graduate record examinations), which they have to take during that summer,” Barnes said. “They participate in the research conferences here at Boise State too. We support them during the summer with a fellowship, a research fellowship of $2,800.”
According to Barnes, during the second year, McNair supports travel to research conferences nationwide. Students can go to professional conferences in their discipline and they travel as a group to the McNair research conferences. Students apply to graduate school during that year, McNair also supports travel to visit graduate schools.
“The mission of the program is to diversify the doctorate level of education. Our grant funds cannot be used for professional degrees. We can only support students that are headed towards a graduate degree that culminates in a Ph.D.,” Barnes said.
Calderon, who has visited numerous graduate schools this year, said the McNair program serves as a guide through the whole process of research and the steps it takes to get into graduate school.
“Just knowing that this program is there for students like me who are first generation, Mexican, low income, knowing that this program is out there to give people like me an opportunity to continue and pursue an advanced degree is huge,” Calderon said.
Because the McNair program is a competition for government money that happens every five years, Boise State is the last remaining program in Idaho.
McNair is funded to serve 26 students every year and Barnes said they get about double the amount of applications. The recruitment cycle happens annually, but Barnes recommends speaking with them early on. The next application process is spring 2014.