McNair president to speak at scholars’ convocation

Ashanka Kumari

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle tragedy, president of McNair Achievement Programs Carl McNair will be a guest speaker at the annual convocation and reception honoring the accomplishments of the University’s McNair Scholars.

McNair is the brother of the program’s namesake, Ronald E. McNair, and also the founder of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Foundation. Ronald E. McNair died along with the other six members of his astronaut crew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, according to the program’s website.

Nancy Campbell, director of the University of Alabama’s McNair Scholars program, said McNair is a highly-sought-after speaker committed to educational programs that inspire and encourage students, especially those from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups, like McNair Scholars, and those interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Ron McNair embodies the ideals of the McNair program and leaves a rich legacy in the areas of education, science, family life and community service,” Campbell said.

The event will be held Thursday in the Grand Gallery in Smith Hall at 5:30 p.m. and will recognize the accomplishments of current McNair Scholars. All members of campus community are invited.

“The accomplishments include students’ completion of year-long research projects as McNair Scholars, publication of most Scholars’ research in the University of Alabama McNair Journal and/or other journals, and graduating seniors’ plans—typically for graduate study—for the coming year,” Campbell said.

Maggie Espino, a 2010 scholar who will be graduating this year, said the 2011 group will be introduced at the convocation.

“We are going to introduce and honor the 2011 cohorts who just started their research year and will talk about the graduating seniors and all of their accomplishments in and outside the McNair scholars program,” said Espino, a senior majoring in English.

McNair Scholars participate in full-time, funded summer research internships and a range of other scholarly activities, some of which are also funded, Campbell said.

“Each of the scholars gets close to a faculty member and works on an independent research project, which we present at a National McNair Conference. Last year it was in Berkeley, Calif.,” Espino said.

According to the program’s website, new McNair scholars are selected during the fall semester to begin the program during the upcoming spring semester. New scholars work together in January on a yearlong research experience, with individual students working on their own research with a faculty mentor.

“The mission of the McNair program is to help students be competitive for and successful in graduate study, so completing research and enrolling in graduate school are key accomplishments,” Campbell said.

“The McNair Scholars Program serves academically talented undergraduates who are either first generation college students with low-income or members of groups historically underrepresented in graduate study, to help them prepare for doctoral study in graduate school,” Campbell said.

The next deadline for applications for the 2012 cohort of McNair Scholars is Nov. 4. Students may apply online.