the third time since 1999, St. John’s University has been selected
by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the McNair Scholars Program,
preparing a new generation of undergraduates for doctoral study and
The University will receive a grant of nearly $1.1 million over
five years to help prepare first-generation, low-income and
traditionally underrepresented students for graduate school. “We
are so happy to have the McNair Program renewed,” said
Andre McKenzie, Ed.D., Project Investigator with the program
and Vice President for the Division of Academic Support
Services at St. John’s. “This year, a reduction in funding made
obtaining the grant particularly competitive. So we are blessed,
fortunate and happy to continue the program.”
Dr. McKenzie helped secure the University’s first grant in 1999.
The program is named for Ronald E.
McNair, a NASA astronaut who died aboard the space shuttle
Challenger in 1986. Approximately 200 grants usually are awarded
during a competition year. In 2012, though 306 institutions applied
for the McNair grant, only 134 grants were awarded.
The new grant will support the program over the next five years.
Twenty-five undergraduates will be selected annually to
participate. Faculty mentors help students hone their research and
presentation skills to prepare for graduate school. Although the
McNair Scholars Program is not a scholarship, students receive a
stipend to cover research expenses and travel to conferences.
“It’s an elite program,” said Asnath Gedeon, Director of the McNair
Scholars Program. “It also complements the University’s Vincentian
mission — some of our participants might have been unable to
prepare for graduate school without it.”
Gedeon and Dr. McKenzie work with deans and faculty to carefully
select participants. Candidates must be citizens or permanent
residents of the U.S. They expect to be first-generation bachelor’s
degree recipients and belong to a group historically
underrepresented in graduate education. They also must be dedicated
to doctoral study, with 60 – 66 credits earned by the end of their
sophomore year and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.
While Gedeon and Dr. McKenzie are the catalysts behind securing the
grant, faculty play an integral role in making the program work.
“The most critical component of this program,” said Dr. McKenzie,
“is the preparation the students receive for conducting research.
We simply could not achieve this without faculty involvement and
engagement. It just wouldn’t work.”
Appreciating its impact on students, Dr. McKenzie and Gedeon will
soon begin applying for the next McNair Scholars grant. “I was
walking down the street the other day, and there was one of our
McNair alums,” said Dr. McKenzie. “She was so excited. She yelled,
‘Doc, I finished my qualifying exams and I’m a full-fledged
doctoral candidate now!’ It was so good to hear that, and to see
that our McNair Scholars are still progressing.”