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McNair Scholars Program at UCF Goes ‘Above and Beyond’

Although Congress this year cut about a third of the more than 200 universities participating in the McNair Scholars Program, UCF this month continued its involvement with a five-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Because of the amazing support of the UCF administrative and campus community we have been able to go above and beyond to accomplish our program goals,” said Michael Aldarondo-Jeffries, director of UCF’s McNair program.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, named in honor of fallen Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair, is a highly competitive program that prepares juniors and seniors who are low-income, first generation, or members of underrepresented groups for doctoral education.

The McNair program at UCF is one of about 135 programs in the nation and one of just four in Florida, along with the University of Florida, Florida International University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

McNair scholars receive fellowships to conduct research with the assistance of faculty mentors and are encouraged to present their findings at professional conferences and publish their results. At UCF, the program serves 28 students. 

“All 11 scholars in our 2012 graduating cohort were accepted to graduate school,” Aldarondo-Jeffries said. “Ninety percent received funding for graduate school.”

At UCF, McNair has served 124 students since 2003. Currently, 88 percent are enrolled or have graduated from a graduate or professional school.

“Since 2007, an unprecedented nine UCF McNair scholars have won the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship,” Aldarondo-Jeffries said.

NSF Graduate Fellowships are worth $121,500. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $30,000 along with a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees.

Scholars have participated in various summer research programs around the country, including Yale, Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of California Irvine and others.

In collaboration with University Marketing, the UCF McNair Scholars Program created a national McNair website where program staff can post resources, success stories, news and general information about their programs. The site also provides information on McNair conferences, funding opportunities and graduate school visitation programs for scholars, and resources for McNair staff.