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McNair scholars aim for academic careers

April 27, 2012

As graduation draws nearer for University of Wisconsin – River Falls students, a handful has decided to continue with their education. Sixteen of the graduates are from the McNair program.

Graduate school is the next step for Grace Adofoli, a psychology major at the University. She has completed two research projects while at the University and a large one titled, “Distance learning, Gender, and Equity in African Higher Education: A comparative Study of Selected West African Countries of Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana, and Senegal.” She has previously attended Cornell University to work on the research and has been afforded the opportunity to travel to the African coast.

Adofoli, originally from Ghana, is the first in her family to attend college.

“I knew I wanted to get my master’s or Ph.D. With a higher education like a Ph.D., I feel I can go above and beyond and make a bigger difference.” Adofoli’s accomplishments here at the University, were made possible with the help of the McNair Scholars program in the Academic Success Center, which has been the launching point for her graduate school aspirations.

Njia Lawrence-Porter, McNair director, has been with the program since 2005.

“Earning a Ph.D. is something that most first-generation students who did not grow up in a household or family where parents have gone to college, never imagine themselves being able to achieve such an accomplishment,” Lawrence-Porter said.

According to a study published in USA Today, only 11 percent of first generation students are projected to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree as compared to the 55 percent of nn first generation college students. The number that go on to graduate school is even less.

Like Student Support services, McNair Scholars helps students who are first generation, low income students continue with their education.

McNair Scholars program is one that students must apply to be accepted into on campus. Each year about 15 undergrad students are taken for two years and groomed with intensive mentoring, seminars and summer internships. The program also comes with a number of benefits for the scholars: they have their graduate school fees waived, national and regional options for summer research, and faculty mentors and eligibility for graduate fellowships and assistantships of up to $25,000/year. The result: a student fully prepared for graduate school.

“It becomes a way for students to set up for the next step in their lives. McNair helps those who are natural intellectuals, those who are always curious and always learning become confident and work towards their Ph.D.,” said Lawrence-Porter.

Since she has been enrolled, Adofoli has had many doors opened for her. The McNair funding has allowed her to give presentations on her research, not only in River Falls to the University’s chancellor and provost, but also at Penn State last fall.

“Because of funding from McNair, a lot of the scholars travel and get a full experience and at the same get the chance to see the work you need to put forth into graduate work.” says Adofoli.

With the semester coming to a close, those students in McNair are preparing to move forward with their education, while keeping Lawrence-Porter’s advice in their minds: “Imagination is limited by exposure.” They are aiming for new heights and are taking what they have learned to the next stop on their journey.