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McNair Program searching for applicants

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The McNair Scholars Program is accepting applicants for the upcoming school year. The program targets low-income, first-generation college students. However, students of all backgrounds who have completed at least 60 hours of class credits by spring 2019 are encouraged to apply, especially those from groups that are underrepresented in graduate education.

The McNair Scholars program is named after physicist and astronaut Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D. who perished on the Challenger space shuttle in 1986.

According to an article published by Southern Miss Now, more than 400 students have participated in the McNair program in the past 18 years. Southern Miss was also awarded a $1.16 million renewal of the grant for the next five years in 2017.

The program awards students with up to $2,800 to fund their research, as well as a $1,400 housing allowance during their summer research internship. The program will also pair students with a mentor who will oversee student’s research, and will offer workshops and seminars to prepare students to apply for graduate programs.

Current McNair Scholar and senior psychology major Japriest Jerry was encouraged to apply to the program by former scholar Corai Jackson. Jerry, who is a first-generation college student, feels that the program not only helped him financially but also helped set him apart for his plans after graduation.

“The McNair Scholars program has helped me financially through college by providing a summer housing stipend, which allowed me to remain in Hattiesburg over the summer to complete the program,” Jerry said. “A friend of mine, Corai Jackson, informed me that the program was seeking new applicants. Corai had just completed the program and informed me of all the benefits and her experiences with them. After doing so, I was deeply driven to apply that way I would receive the same benefits and experiences.”

Fellow McNair Scholar and senior psychology major and Spanish minor Tiara Watson said that both the financial benefit and research opportunity were a blessing for her education.

“The application process for graduate school is so expensive,” Watson said. “But being a McNair Scholar comes with so many benefits and one of those is being able to afford to pay the application fees because a lot of schools waive the application fees [for McNair Scholars.]” The McNair Program also pays GRE fees for students at the end of the program.

However, when asked what led her to apply, Watson states that her sorority sister Corai Jackson was also the one who encouraged her to start the application process.

“[Jackson] really stressed how impactful the McNair program was to her,” Watson said. “She told me about all the different exposure that she got to different graduate schools and GRE prep. [Jackson] showed me her personal statement, and I was just so impressed. She really convinced me that the McNair program would be a beneficial investment into my future.”

First generation college student and senior biology major Sarah Jamison says the McNair program helped her figure out she did not want to pursue a career in research.

“I was in the lab everyday doing research on antibiotic resistance,” Jamison said. “My experience may not be the same as others because completing [the program] changed my scope of what I wanted to do in my future. I enjoyed it, but I figured out that I really don’t want to work in the lab.”

The program took scholars to Washington D.C. to visit potential graduate institutions and tour the museums of the capital city as well as require students to participate in individual research projects and GRE prep. All three scholars agree that the best thing that came out of their time in the program were skills such as time management and graduate school preparation.

“Hard work and being able to accept constructive criticism on your work is very important as well,” Jamison said. “I expected the program to be easier, but it was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve taken on.”

However, all three scholars want to encourage other students to apply and reap the same benefits they did.

“I loved the experience,” Jamison said. “I wouldn’t mind doing it again for another summer.”

The deadline to apply is Friday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. Students who wish to apply or have questions about the program are encouraged to visit https://www.usm.edu/mcnair-scholars-program/become-mcnair-scholar 

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