NEWS McNair scholars 2022
Equity and Inclusion

Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Engagement Hosts McNair Scholars to Support Graduate Recruitment

The Office of Inclusion and Engagement (OIE) in the Graduate School is tasked with fostering diversity and a positive campus environment, while promoting graduate student success. Practically, under the direction of Wilmore Webley, associate dean, OIE assists colleges, departments and programs with recruiting and retaining students who are historically underrepresented in graduate education. administers the Research Enhancement and Leadership (REAL) and the Spaulding-Smith Fellowships, totaling $1.6M annually in direct scholarship support fellows while providing mentoring, and community building programming to support to over 260 current fellows. With the full support of Graduate School Dean, Jacqueline Urla, fellows are supported through community engagement, travel awards and a Well-Being Fund to support mental health care, especially if that care needs to be out of network.

As part of the strategic goal, OIE hosted six McNair Scholars Programs, totaling 50 scholars and their directors/coordinators to campus in the months of June and July. This provided an opportunity for juniors and seniors in these programs from the University of Connecticut, Suffolk University, University of New Hampshire, Wesleyan University, Rhode Island College and Castleton University, to meet directly with faculty members and graduate students from their disciplines of interest. Scholars also received a tour of the core facilities in the Institute of Applied Life Sciences and the School of Management Innovation Hub. Their tour was expanded to campus areas of interest and provided relevant information on the graduate school application process, professional development and community support from the Office of Professional Development in the Graduate School. Over 28 faculty members and 17 current graduate students participated in these events that took place in the Life Science Laboratory Building conference rooms, resulting in exciting and in-depth conversations and new connections. Scholars were also treated to UMass Dining Services Award Winning Dining experience at the Worcester Dining Common with graduate students. 

The McNair Scholars Program embrace and honor the legacy and high achievement standards of Ronald E. McNair, an expert in laser physics, a graduate of MIT and the second African American selected by NASA for the space shuttle program to fly into space on Feb. 3, 1984.  McNair was the mission specialist of the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle, which exploded one minute, thirteen seconds after launching on Jan. 28, 1986, killing everyone on board. McNair was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. MacNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The goal was to encourage low-income and first-generation college students, and those from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to enroll in doctoral programs and pursue an academic career.

UMass Amherst is proud to collaborate with schools in the region that host McNair programs and look forward to continued partnerships in the future. In addition to McNair partnerships, UMass Amherst became a member of the National Name Exchange (NNE) for the first time in our history. The NNE was founded in 1976 as a consortium of over 50 nationally-recognized universities, which collect and share the names of their talented, underrepresented ethnic minority students in their sophomore, junior, and senior years of college, who expect to apply to graduate schools. Many schools offered an application fee waiver to any student who is part of the NNE. Associate Dean Webley is the UMass contact for the NNE. Many UMass URM undergraduate students have already enrolled in the exchange, which is now managed by the Council of Graduate Schools, of which UMass Amherst is also a member. We therefore have access to the names and demographic information of over 4000 undergraduate students from over 80 colleges and universities who sign up for the NNE. These names will be sorted by programs of interest and made available to each college by the end of September, so that departments can use the list to recruit URM students to their programs.

Many URM students in college often do not consider pursuing a graduate degree. This is especially true for those who are first generation college students. We hope that by providing these students, both here on our campus and at other colleges, easy access to pertinent information on the many graduate opportunities available to them, they will come to see graduate study as a viable path to fulfil their career goals. OIE runs workshops and provide customized guidance for departments on recruitment strategies, holistic admissions and retention of URM and first-generation students.