Aug. 7, 2009
Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
ATLANTA - For Bianca Islam, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program has given her an experience with hands-on research.
That experience, she said, has given her the chance for her dreams of becoming a doctor, working in global health, to be within her reach.
"The program has been everything but ordinary," said Islam, a rising junior whose endless list of dream schools include Johns Hopkins, Harvard and MIT. "The intensive research program has tested my limits academically and mentally."
Daniel Smith, a rising junior in the program, can sum up the program in one word: opportunity.
"The McNair program really compartmentalized everything. It's not as big as you think, and if you work hard enough, graduate school is something you can definitely do."
They will be two students among dozens who will present the fruits of their research August 3-4 during the culmination of the summer's research apprenticeships of the McNair program.
Since 1989, Georgia State has had more than 400 scholars develop and achieve academic success through the McNair program, which seeks to increase the number of Ph.D. holders among minority and low income, first generation college students - historically underrepresented in academia.
The McNair program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, started 20 years ago in memory of Ronald E. McNair, an African-American astronaut who came from impoverished beginnings in rural, segregated South Carolina to eventually gain a Ph.D. from MIT. He died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Georgia State was one of the original institutions that launched the program in 1989, which has expanded to hundreds of colleges and universities across the country, said Curtis Byrd, director of the program at Georgia State.
"We're really happy that it's been here for so long, and we've done some amazing things since the initial start of the program," Byrd said.
The program includes the summertime research apprenticeships under faculty and graduate student mentorship - which includes a $2,800 stipend - as well as assistance with the GRE and fee waivers for graduate school applications.
Georgia State is not only a sponsor of student achievement through the program, but is a recipient of the students who have gone through the program before, with several faculty members and other professionals who are alumni of the initiative at other colleges and universities.
For example, Francisco Cruz, lecturer in the Department of Biology, came from a family that had no experience in higher education. He went onto community college in Florida, and went onto become a McNair scholar at the University of Florida, eventually earning his Ph.D. from Penn State.
"I really started taking off," he said. "It opened a lot of opportunities for me because it allowed for career development, to learn how to write, speak, and present, and learn a culture of professionalism. That's sometimes absent in people who don't have parents who have experienced higher education."
The confidence instilled by the program leads to higher goals, Islam said.
"I have a lot of dreams and aspirations," she said. "I just hope time will take me there, and that God leads me down all the right paths to help mankind."
For more information about the McNair program, visit www.gsu.edu/mcnair.