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McNair Program Encourages, Prepares Students In Pursuit Of Ph.D.

Aug. 19, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Meredith Mohr

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SHSU juniors Amber Massey and Aracelli Rosillo participate in SHSU's Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which prepares undergraduates for future doctoral studies.  —Photos by Brian Blalock


At a table in a quiet corner on the top floor of Newton Gresham Library, you almost can’t see junior Amber Massey behind a stack of open books and papers.

She maybe is just another student diligently studying for an upcoming test in her class, but she is also part of Sam Houston State University’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.

The program is designed to provide talented low-income, first-generation and ethnic minority undergraduate students with effective preparation for doctoral study.

In her time at the library, surrounded by research books and coffee cups, Massey is preparing for much more than an upcoming test. She is preparing to earn a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology, emphasizing the etiology, or origination, and treatment of eating disorders by focusing on a neurological basis.

“I am looking at several great schools, but all clinical psychology programs are incredibly competitive,” Massey said. “I think being in the McNair Program has made all of these competitive programs much more attainable, and I feel exponentially more confident in my ability to be chosen above other applicants. McNair and the wonderful people involved with the program have provided key tools for success in the future, and I do not think I would be where I am today without them.”

Students in the McNair Scholars Program are working toward goals such as these all the time. Each student has a faculty mentor in his or her department to guide them in a required research project. The opportunity for scholarships and paid travel to visit graduate programs and attend research conferences is available for all participants. Scholars are also offered graduate workshops, GRE prep, research funding, tutoring and access to resources such as laptops and a lending library.

Massey heard about the McNair Program from Monica Eaton, a recent SHSU graduate who is starting her Masters of Science in economics at Baylor this fall. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in business at Cornell.

Eaton said although she “tried a lot of things” before deciding to major in economics—including education, biology, political science and sociology—she has always known that she wanted to get a Ph.D. in something.

“I was drawn to the program because my parents always taught me that education was the great equalizer and that it was one of the keys to a brighter future,” Eaton said. “Because of that I always took education very seriously. I can honestly say the McNair Program was one of the best things I could have done to prepare me for the rigor of graduate school.”

From the McNair Program, Massey said that she has learned key skills such as confidence, dedication and how to present herself—skills that will not only serve her well in graduate school and a Ph.D. program, but also ultimately in a career setting.

“Being a McNair Scholar has changed the way I look at graduate school and my current studies,” Massey said. “The program has opened my eyes to the realities of graduate school preparation I do not believe I would have otherwise figured out on my own. I now feel confident and capable of entering a Ph.D. program immediately after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.”

Eaton said that one of the most beneficial and memorable parts of her participation in the program was the help she got from her mentor, Donald Freeman, a professor in the Department of Economics and International Business.

“My project examined the effects of unemployment on crime by demographics and locality, allowing me to gain insight about what research topics I’d like to undertake in the future, as well as the amount of time and effort that goes into producing a research paper,” Eaton said. “Through it all, Dr. Freeman was helpful and uplifting, and I absolutely loved working with him. I would say the relationship I got to develop with him is one of the greatest benefits of the McNair Program. “

Junior Aracelli Rosillo said that the McNair Program has not only changed the way she views school but has helped her realize and work towards her academic goals.

“My perspective on school has changed so much since I joined the McNair Program,” Rosillo said. “Before I was just going to class and studying enough to pass and do well. Now, I go to class and am actively involved and go beyond what I used to do, because I’m working toward something. I see my professors as people from whom I can learn, because some day I want to be where they are now. “

Rosillo’s current research project for the McNair Program involves studying beetles and their role in post-mortem body identification. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in entomology with an emphasis in forensics, with hopes to work for the FBI someday.

For Rosillo, Massey and Eaton, McNair is an invaluable resource, a program that has motivated and strengthened old dreams, while building new ones.

“McNair and the wonderful people involved with the program have provided key tools for success in the future,” Massey said. “I do not think I would be where I am today without them. I am certainly a more attractive applicant for being involved with the program, as it is synonymous with success.”

The McNair Program is currently recruiting for an Oct. 1 acceptance date. The applications are due in the McNair Scholars Office, in Academic Building 3 Room 216, by 5 p.m. on Sept. 9. For more information, go to www.shsu.edu/~mcnair or contact director Lydia Fox at lcf001@shsu.edu or at 936.294.3246.



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