Research indicates multiple levels of support are needed to facilitate doctoral degree attainment for historically marginalized students. National, state, local, and organizational efforts are necessary to stem attrition and build communities that embrace academic achievement for students of color. A long-standing national effort supporting students of color is the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement program. Named after the second African American to fly in space, McNair, with a PhD in laser physics, orbited the earth 122 times in a space shuttle mission and is the model for a program emphasizing doctoral degree completion for first-generation, low-income students. With outcomes for exposure to graduate level academic activities to increase attainment of the PHD, McNair is essential to increasing doctoral degree production in the United States.
Beyond a student’s academic capacity, McNair values the process of making meaning of a one’s potential to be a well-rounded scholar. To support students from underrepresented backgrounds, members of the McNair community oftentimes see beyond mainstream aspects of the doctoral experience. For instance, creating spaces to support racially and culturally-based research interests that are meaningful to a student’s identity and research interests involves finding opportunities in institutional spaces where racially and culturally relevant ideas are not be readily apparent.
McNair Scholars benefit from a vast network of researchers, practitioners, and scholars who provide both academic and psycho-social support. This is helpful since many students bring valuable levels of emotional intelligence with them based on their experiences. However, managing it may require different skill sets; and drawing on a diverse network mentors is essential to supporting differences among a variety of disciplinary experiences. In addition to providing these layers of support, McNair creates spaces that illustrate successful transitions from doctoral study into careers emphasizing specific disciplinary interests. Oftentimes historically marginalized students don’t benefit from the protection afforded by supportive legacies of inclusion where thriving intellectually and culturally is a norm. Thus, engaging with mentors who have experience in their careers and disciplines, serves to build cultural wealth and sustain programmatic activities to support scholarly engagement within their intellectual communities.
The contribution McNair makes to supporting doctoral degree completion fori historically marginalized students is invaluable. It represents a critical layer of addressing a multi-faceted system of exclusion for underrepresented populations regarding their participation in higher education. Furthermore, McNair represents the promise of potential in strengthening our nation by way doctoral degree completion; bringing to bear one of Dr. McNair’s well known quotes: “Whether or not you reach your goal in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. You’re eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky.” Preparation, motivation, and determination are driving forces of the program facilitating academic success, degree completion and transition into the academic profession and other careers.
More information about Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Programs throughout the United States can be found here: https://mcnairscholars.com/regional-and-state-associations-2/