The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Scholars program grants four more years of funds

Janie Boschma

It’s been nine years since Patricia Quinn wrote to the McNair Scholars Program to get a grant for UW-Eau Claire.

Quinn said the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program was created by an act of congress as an initiative by the U.S. Department of Education. The program is in commemoration of McNair, who joined NASA in 1978 and died aboard the Challenger space shuttle in January 1986.

Quinn, the director of the program, said the university has secured four more years of funding. She also said this is not a scholarship, but a learning community in which students are nominated by faculty members.

Eau Claire is one of 177 institutions nationwide to receive this grant. Quinn said in the last nine years the program has received more than two million dollars for grants. Approximately $930,000 is given during each four-year period. She said the funding is not guaranteed and the university has to apply for it every four years.

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“It’s a nationwide competition,” Quinn said. “We compete against research institutions and bigger universities. We are in disadvantage by not having a PhD program.”

She is also very involved in the selection process. With the help of the registrar’s office she obtains a list with every student eligible for the program.

Bruce Ouderkirk, director of the Student Support Services, said Eau Claire has between 1,200 and 1,400 low-income students, which makes them eligible for the McNair Program.

From there, faculty members inquire about students’ backgrounds to see if they fit the criteria.

Students must have two years left in their undergraduate program. They must either come from low-income families, be the first generation in their families to attend college or be an underrepresented minorities who want to pursue higher education in order to qualify for the program.

Tammy Goss is a McNair scholar who won the grant in fall 2004. Goss said once a student is accepted into the program he or she is required to take one McNair class every semester until graduation, in addition to normal courses. In these classes students learn research skills because they enter a research program the summer before they graduate.

Goss is in her second year of graduate school at UW-Madison in the department of linguistics and has started to work on her research thesis. She said her program usually takes nine years, but, since she is working on her dissertation right now, she hopes to get it done in less time.

Quinn said students engage in a collaborative research project during the two-year period of their undergraduate program. They are assigned a mentor who works with them very closely.

The first McNair scholar from Eau Claire, Jeff Miller, said he never considered graduate school until he got into the McNair program. He said it was the biggest break of his life.

Miller, who finished his master’s degree and doctorate, now owns his own company, which helps other students with their research and dissertations.

“I think a lot of the success of the program is due to the passion of Dr. Quinn working with us,” Miller said.

Goss said she hopes more students become aware of the program.

“I think that all the students of UW-Eau Claire should be given the information about McNair,” Goss said. “Sometimes people need to make things happen instead of waiting for their advisors; they need to be proactive, and in order to be proactive they need to have the right information.”

For more information about the McNair Scholars Program, e-mail Tammy Goss at [email protected].

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Scholars program grants four more years of funds