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McNair Scholars Program presents often overlooked opportunities to UWRF students

February 7, 2014

There is more than meets the eye to the McNair Scholars Program on the UW-River Falls campus, with many opportunities that more students should be taking advantage of.

Designed as a two-year program, at the start of the participant’s junior year, it is geared towards undergraduate students studying fields in science, math and technology; the program is meant for students who are interested in pursuing a master’s degree and even a doctoral degree. With 16 students currently involved in the program, there is plenty of room for more students to join.

Each year, students who are accepted into the program are matched up with a faculty member on campus who will be their mentor and help guide the McNair scholar in their research. These students then conduct research and attend professional and academic conferences to present their research. Each month there are seminars these students attend, set up by the McNair program to help shape them in many different areas, like preparing for the GRE examination to get accepted into graduate school and the application process.

Louis Porter II, director of the McNair Scholars Program said that there are many four-year institutions that have this program, including several in Wisconsin. The program is not a scholarship, but the financial advantages the McNair scholars have laid out for them are hard to pass up. These advantages include receiving a stipend, tuition for the academic credits earned from the internship and assistance with room and board. There are also longterm financial advantages, such as paying for the GRE and graduate school application fees.

“This is an amazing opportunity for anyone who is interested in a career in research and to really get experience and assistance in getting into graduate school,” Porter said.

Senior biology major Blake Klocke is finishing up his last semester of the two-year program this year, and is coming away with more than just the monthly seminars and mentored advice. Coming in as a freshman in college almost four years ago, Klocke knew he was interested in preserving amphibians and their way of life, but he never would have expected to experienced all that he has within the last two years, thanks to the McNair Scholars Program.

Klocke had applied for a research program that kept amphibians in captivity in Panama the spring of 2013; he was later accepted and expected to fly out the same summer. Among other scholarships and grants he applied for, he also applied to the McNair Scholars program after being accepted. When he was accepted into the McNair program they helped to fund half of the total cost of him going to Panama for two and a half months to do research in his field of study last summer.

“The McNair Scholars Program really opened the doors for me and let me experience lots of opportunities,” Klocke said.

There is a preliminary application to fill out, as well as eligibility requirements that have to be met, including maintaining a cumulative G.P.A of 3.0 or higher, having a sophomore or junior standing, first-generation student and coming from a family that qualifies as low income. As a program that offers so much and can help students reach their full potential, the program is highly unrecognized or just not known about on the UW- River Falls campus.

“The people who are seniors and graduated and applying to graduate school, they provide a big benefit to the sophomores and juniors in telling them about their experiences and how to prepare,” Klocke said. “The peer to peer connection is really great and you can’t beat this program on campus, it’s an amazing opportunity.”

For more information on eligibility, program services, benefits or the application process contact Porter at (715) 425-3528 or louis.porter@ uwrf.edu.