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The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at the University of North Dakota is a program within the Division of Student Affairs, funded by the United States Department of Education.
Program participants are undergraduates, juniors, or seniors, who are first generation and low income, or who are from a group underrepresented at the doctoral level of the targeted departments. The McNair Program encourages students to prepare for graduate studies by providing opportunities to define goals, engage in research, and to develop the skills and student faculty mentor relationships vital to success at the doctoral level.
McNair Faculty Focus: October - Dr. Christopher Atkinson
The Joy of McNair Scholars Program
Learning is joy, and McNair Scholar research at UND is a joy for both students and McNair mentors. Ms. Manna Khan recently joined the McNair Scholars program to advance her work in Geography. She is working with Dr. Christopher Atkinson and is keenly interested in water pollution in Bangladesh as it pertains to pollution sources and the connection and impact to human populations. The process of asking questions and seeking answers is a joy for Ms. Khan. Her mentor sees advancement in her character and aptitude for independent research even in the short time since work began. While this progression of student skill in research brings joy to Dr. Atkinson, the main focus of the McNair program is to help undergraduate students prepare for graduate-level research. In this regard, Ms. Khan sees the joy in learning at each and every McNair research session by taking good notes and bringing a positive attitude even though the focus of these meetings could be deemed "dry" by others. By working together and compromising when needed, Ms. Khan and her mentor developed a great working relationship during Summer 2014. During the Halloween weekend, Ms. Khan and other UND scholars from the McNair program travel to a conference in Wisconsin; Ms. Khan will discover the joy of sharing research discoveries. When she returns to UND, Ms. Khan knows the research she wants to pursue: she has recognized the joy of research when a plan is in place. Dr. Atkinson looks forward to helping her discover the joy of applying her research to an important topic and finding out what the results indicate for Bangladesh. The McNair Scholars program remains a very important segment of student opportunity at UND. The program creates solid results for students and professors alike as they strive to commonly pursue the mutual love and joy of research in common company.
McNair Faculty Focus: November - Dr. Kathryn Yurkonis
The McNair Scholar's Program Builds Experience Beyond the Classroom
By working one on one with faculty mentors, McNair Scholar researchers at UND start on their path to develop independent research careers. In 2011, Ms. Leslie Yellow Hammer joined the McNair Scholars program to learn more about research in biology. She was keenly aware that she wanted not only to be part of the scientific process, but to direct it. She joined Dr. Yurkonis' Grassland Ecology Lab in fall 2011, and is now directing her second independent research project on plant-insect interactions.The main focus of the McNair program is to help undergraduate students prepare for graduate-level research by providing them opportunities to develop as independent researchers outside of the classroom. As part of this program, Ms. Yellow Hammer has designed her own experiments, collected and analyzed her own data, and disseminated her results at regional and national conferences. She has gained field and lab skills working with plants, insects, and soil biota, and has had the opportunity to interact with multiple faculty and graduate student mentors at UND.
The McNair experience helps students to develop skills in conducting research, but also in helping others to build their scientific awareness. Ms. Yellow Hammer has mentored several students within the McNair and US MASTERS programs as they have pursued their own research projects within the lab. In this process she has found that she truly enjoys helping others learn more about research.
These collective opportunities to understand the research process and how to broadly influence society with her research have helped prepare Ms. Yellow Hammer for the next stage of her career. Ms. Yellow Hammer recently submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship program to support her proposed cutting-edge graduate research project on plant-soil interactions and will be applying to graduate school this fall. The McNair Scholars program provides a strong foundation of mentoring and skill-building opportunities for students to move forward with the next stages of their careers as independent researchers.
McNair Faculty Focus: January - Dr. Birgit Hans
Exciting opportunity not boring obligation
For years I had heard anecdotal evidence that students benefitted from doing serious research while undergraduates. I was told that it built confidence as well as various academic skills, such as critical thinking and writing among others. Admittedly, I was intrigued, and, when I was approached by Patrice Giese from the McNair Program over a decade ago, I was ready to try it. What no one had told me was how rewarding the experience is to the mentor of the undergraduate students doing research. It is certainly stimulating to discuss issues with them and to hear their perspectives, which often differ from mine and, frequently, encourage me to do more reading or to re-examine my own thinking. The most exciting moments for me are when students discover the joys of doing primary research and see connections between their research and their reading. I have been very fortunate in being able to mentor at least one student a year and feel that the experience enriches my own academic life.
My latest mentee is Sashay Schettler, a student from the Three Affiliated Tribes. She has embarked on doing research on Native language revitalization, a project that carries a certain urgency since many Native languages are threatened with extinction. There is only one fluent speaker of Mandan, one of the languages formerly spoken on the Fort Berthold Reservation, left. At present Sashay is inventorying existing programs, but she is also very much aware of the culturally specific needs for a successful language revitalization. Sashay's enthusiasm for her research is infectious, and I am looking forward to seeing how her research will develop and what conclusions she will reach.
McNair Faculty Focus: Summer - Dr. Rebecca Simmons
Being in the right place at the right time
Sometimes, finding a direction involves luck--being in the right place at the right time. For Rebecca (Becca) Devine that “right place” was Prof. Chris Felege’s Concepts of Biology course. After that, Becca switched her major to Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. I met Becca when she enrolled in General Biology II during the 2014 summer session. I knew immediately that Becca should join my lab, because of the honeybee tattoo on her shoulder! My luck proved to be good as well; Becca is an excellent student researcher who has a promising career in Entomology. Becca’s work is an important first step in her career, allowing her to work with project that builds on the work of previous McNair scholars. Through this collaboration and her work, Becca is able to make a unique contribution to what is known about prairie fauna.
Becca is interested in pollinators and conservation. Pollinators are key to the success of plant species, acting as matchmakers for plants as they reproduce. Pollinators are also economically important to agriculture. North Dakota depends more on pollinators for crop production more than any state in the U.S. Unfortunately, pollinator health has suffered due to a variety of factors including: global climate change, habitat fragmentation, reduced diversity of plant species, and pesticide use. Little is known about the health of North Dakota pollinators; Becca’s research addresses this key question.
Becca collaborates with other McNair students, Leslie Yellow Hammer and Tiffany Huwe, and their advising team, Drs. Yurkonis and Goodwin for her research project. In summer 2014, Leslie and Tiffany (along with others from the Yurkonis/Goodwin team) collected pollinators from a variety of plants in Meckinok, ND. Currently, Becca is using genetic sequence data to identify these insects. With this information, Becca will be able to provide a list of the pollinators found at this site, and will be able to examine the genetic diversity of these species to determine if pollinators are susceptible to environmental changes and other factors. During this process, Becca is able to learn study design, methods of data collection and analysis, and presentation skills. The McNair program, through its support services, has been essential to Becca’s development as a researcher and professional scientist. I am grateful to be working with Becca as she pursues her dream of becoming an Entomologist.
- Faculty mentor/student relationship established.
- Research skills developed both library and laboratory.
- Personal and emotional counseling.
- GRE preparation.
- Aid in graduate school admissions.
- Research stipends.
- Tutoring and support group involvement.
- Assistance in securing appropriate financial aid.
- Academic advisement.
- Various seminars and workshops related to graduate education.
- Conference travel and possible graduate school visitation.
- Tuition assistance
Students who have completed sophomore year (60 semester hours) and
1. Are first generation college student and low income
2. Are from a group underrepresented in doctoral studies.
Creative, independent, undergraduates with good writing skills and a GPA of 3.0 who posses intellectual curiosity and who are interested in conducting research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Students interested in completing doctoral studies in one of the following targeted programs:
- Anatomy and Cell Biology
- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Computer Science
- Microbiology and Immunology
- Other Programs possible-on individual basis
UND McNair Program receives 100% of its annual budget ($243,000) from the Dept. of Education.
Contact the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program: Assistant Director; Patrice Giese