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UA Little Rock Receives $1.215 Million Grant for McNair Scholars Program

Students walk across campus on their way to class during the first of day the Fall semester.
Students walk across campus on their way to class during the first of day the Fall semester. Photo by Ben Krain.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has received a $1.215 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help disadvantaged college students gain opportunities for success in their future doctoral studies.

The five-year grant will provide $243,041 a year for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. The McNair program is one of eight federal TRIO programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.

The UA Little Rock McNair Scholars Program provides research and student success opportunities for juniors and seniors who plan to advance their education and skills through competitive graduate programs.

“When we look at U.S. students studying to become our future physicians, professors, scientists, and other crucial professionals requiring graduate degrees, many demographic groups are underrepresented, including first-generation college students and those from low-income families,” said Nasser Paydar, assistant secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education. “McNair grants fund projects at universities and colleges that help underrepresented students to access doctoral programs.”

UA Little Rock supports 26 McNair Scholars every year to participate in the university’s enriching Research Internship Program. In their first year, McNair Scholars participate in the Summer Research Internship. Afterwards, students complete a McNair required-research experience where they work with a faculty mentor to conduct an independent research project and write a paper on the results.

“In this undergraduate research program, we offer research opportunities for students to prepare them for graduate school,” said Ashia Muhammad, director of the McNair Scholars Program at UA Little Rock. “We have workshops on getting ready for graduate school and presenting research at a conference as well as attending graduate school fairs and cultural events. Each student is paired with a faculty mentor to complete independent research projects that will prepare them for research requirements of graduate school. The ultimate goal is for our scholars to receive a Ph.D. 10 years after they have graduated from UA Little Rock. This funding will help us increase our graduation rates and post-baccalaureate success among first-generation, low-income students, and students from underrepresented populations in graduate school.”

The program also provides intensive support for scholars who apply for external research opportunities and for graduate school programs. These services include Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation and advising, tutoring, academic counseling, financial aid counseling, assistance with securing financial support for graduate school, and advising on how to apply for and successfully complete graduate school.

“Our university has a strong track record of McNair Scholars not only successfully moving on to doctoral programs, but also thriving in their careers with a commitment to inspire others,” said Dr. David Montague, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs–student success.

UA Little Rock is one of three Arkansas universities, including Harding University and Henderson State University, that hosts the McNair Scholars Program, which started in 1991 at UA Little Rock.