McNair Scholars at BSU Achieve Dreams of Graduate StudyAugust 21, 2019
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(BOWIE, Md.) – When Troy Kearse first applied for Bowie State University’s Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, he had no idea what to expect. He soon learned that having opportunities to conduct research and attend academic conferences would help him secure admission to a competitive doctoral program.
“I'm glad to have applied to the program and officially be accepted as a McNair Scholar. The experiences demonstrated just how being a McNair Scholar can benefit any undergraduate student looking to get into graduate school,” said Kearse, a May 2019 graduate who received full-ride financial support to attend the school psychology doctoral program at Howard University starting this fall. “I will move forward in my career holding the knowledge and the skills that I have obtained from these experiences.”
Christ Tessofo, a BSU McNair Scholar and
Since 2018, more than 30 Bowie State undergraduate students like Kearse have been prepared for graduate study through the university’s McNair Scholars Program, which targets students who are the first in their immediate family to attend college or who are from traditionally underrepresented groups in graduate education. Six, including Kearse, have graduated and either enrolled in post-baccalaureate study or gained employment in their field. The program is still accepting student applications for the fall 2019 semester.
The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to create a pipeline of first-generation and low-income students from Bowie State, who will find success in some of the nation’s most prestigious doctoral programs. The benefits include one-on-one access to a faculty mentor, help with graduate school application process, free or reduced fee waivers when applying to select graduate schools and many more.
“The idea is that they are a part of a community of scholars. They all have one goal: that is, to prepare for graduate school,” said Matthias Seisay, the program's assistant director. “When I take the students to conferences, suddenly the lightbulb comes on. ‘Wow, I am doctoral program material. I can actually conduct research.’ When they go to conferences, they see students who look like them, people from similar backgrounds. Those are the things that I’m trying to expose my scholars to.”
Seisay has taken his students to conferences at such renowned schools as Harvard University, University of North Florida, Yale University, Indiana University and Florida International University, helping them to envision their path to graduate school. Since the program's start, the number of students has also nearly doubled to 32 by summer 2019. Seventeen of them participated in Bowie State's Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI), while 10 others spent the summer in research programs at other colleges or universities. Seisay hopes to grow the program to at least 50 students.
As students progress toward their senior year, they must apply to a minimum of eight graduate schools, including schools outside of the local community. Each one of the McNair Scholar opportunities help build the students’ confidence in their abilities and prepares them to submit strong applications to top graduate programs. Seisay even helps the students with strategies to maximize their opportunities to get financial support for graduate school.
“My dream for this program is that every scholar who comes through the program is going to leave as a different person, academically and socially as well,” he said. “I’ve had students who have never been on a plane before. I’ve had students who never stayed in a Marriott hotel before. I’ve had students to say, ‘I didn’t know you could have fun and do academic work at the same time.’ These conferences open their eyes because they realize they don’t have limits.”