McNair Renewal Aids First Generation Grad Students

Benjamin Pierce, Assistant News Editor

Students aspiring for their doctorate degree and working on graduate research projects will continue to receive help at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater after a five year renewal of the McNair Scholars Program.

The program aims to prepare low income, first generation and/or students from underrepresented groups such as people from the black and hispanic communities for doctorate degrees and research. The program provides these students with mentoring and other resources to produce quality projects and attain doctorate degrees.

The students are in regular contact with faculty and that allows them to be informed and hopefully have more successful in their pursuit of a PhD. It helps get them acclimated to what someone who already is a graduate student might do according to assistant vice chancellor of student diversity, engagement, and success LaVar Charleston.

The renewal of the program is a huge positive for the Warhawk family according to Charleston.

“They set a good example of what it means to be a true warhawk,” he said of the McNair scholars.

The renewal of the program is good for students, but it’s also something the university is excited about.

“It’s a long standing hallmark that we pride ourselves on. The program on a national landscape is an honor,” Charleston said. “To be given this program and then to secure that program for five more years is phenomenal.”

McNair scholar Katlynn Benitez is a senior biology major. She said she would be lost without the program.

“It does so much,” she said. “It opened doors for me to realize and develop my professional skills. The ability to have direct relationships with professionals in the field and on campus is incredible.”

Benitez hopes to attain her doctorate degree after graduating from UW-W this Spring, but she almost never continued her education.

“The idea of getting my masters was scary but with all of the support I received from the McNair program I realized that I could do it. It is so important that this program exists because it gives us hope,” she said.

Program coordinator Whitney Supianoski said the program is “transformative” and she was happy to have the program renewed.

“For students that we serve, there is now a continuation of resources both financially and personnel wise to help them get to that next step,” Supianoski said.

Supianoski hopes to see the program continue to push students to flourish outside of the Wisconsin area and move into Ivy League and Big Ten universities to continue the legacy of the program. The five year extension will push the program to its 30th  year on campus.