Castleton University recently received a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program grant, which will exceed $1 million over five years. The program’s goal is to increase the number of Castleton students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds or underrepresented groups, who attain doctoral degrees.
Castleton’s McNair Scholars program will serve at least 25 students, sophomore through seniors, each academic year. At least 2/3 of the cohort will be low-income, first-generation college students. The remaining students will be from groups underrepresented in higher education, including African Americans, Alaskan Natives, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Castleton faculty will help McNair program staff identify strong candidates for the program and graduate study.
Castleton professors predict no shortage of interest in McNair. “Every year I find more and more students are interested in graduate school, and some of them want to earn their Ph.D.,” said Dr. Andy Vermilyea, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science Program Coordinator.
Through the program, McNair Scholars will receive intensive support from McNair program staff and Castleton faculty. During the academic year, Scholars will attend monthly seminars about graduate education. They will also work closely with a faculty mentor who will help them design a research project or paper. McNair Scholars will have an opportunity to conduct original research on campus during an eight-week summer session. They will receive a stipend and free housing during their summer research experience. “The McNair program will provide students with opportunities that they probably never considered or knew about prior to coming to Castleton,” said Dr. Tim Grover, Professor of Geology and Chair of the Natural Sciences department.
Castleton faculty look forward to mentoring students in research. “My career decision was shaped by my time conducting research with faculty,” said Vermilyea. “These are pivotal moments in a student’s education.”
Professors are also eager to see what McNair Scholars will achieve. “Watching students grow both personally and intellectually and helping them have a great outcome upon graduation is an incredibly rewarding experience,” Grover said. “It’s why we are involved in higher education.”
Castleton’s program, which has a $232,265 budget for 2017-2018, is funded through the U. S. Department of Education from 2017-2022.