$1.3 Million from Department of Education Helps TAMU-CC McNair Scholars Fulfill Academic Dreams

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s McNair Scholars Program will continue to assist first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students thanks to $1.3 million in renewed funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The funding will extend the program at TAMU-CC for the next five years. 

The McNair Scholars Program is a Federal TRIO Program created in honor of Ronald E. McNair, who lost his life in the Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986. After his tragic death, members of Congress honored his life and dedication to education with the McNair Scholars Program, which specifically supports first-generation, low-income, and racially underrepresented college students in their preparation for graduate school and beyond. Today, 151 colleges across the country and in Puerto Rico have a McNair Scholars Program.

“As a McNair alumna, I know the power of this program,” said Dr. Peggy Valdes, Director of the TAMU-CC McNair Scholars Program. “I have been told that if you want a seat at the decision-making table, you must have an advanced degree. That is precisely what our program does for our students – it prepares them for what they will face in graduate school.”

TAMU-CC McNair Scholar Ayleen Chen ’24, a biomedical sciences major, found navigating college life as a first-generation student challenging, but she said found key assistance from McNair staff.

“As a first-gen student, I was overwhelmed by the heavier course load, and my parents weren’t able to help me with my academic choices because they didn’t have knowledge of how college works,” Chen said. “With the guidance from McNair staff, I’ve grown immensely. The knowledge and relationships I have made in the program make me proud to be a first-gen student and a McNair Scholar.” 

The McNair Scholars Program hosts weekly seminars designed to provide students with guidance and give them experience in a variety of topics. Through academic support, financial literacy, and assistance with graduate school applications, students are given the tools they need to succeed and make the leap to an advanced degree program. Program staff also prepare the McNair scholars to conduct a research project or creative work. In some instances, scholars are even afforded the opportunity to present their scholarly work at national conferences.

“Having the opportunity to complete a research project is very rare for an undergraduate student,” said TAMU-CC McNair Scholar Rose Rodriguez ’23, a psychology major. “Thanks to the McNair Scholars Program, not only was my research project funded but I was also given valuable guidance and mentorship throughout the process. Being a McNair Scholar also allowed me to participate in the Rutgers-Newark Summer Undergraduate Research Institute and present my research project at conferences around the country.”

The McNair program also gives students an opportunity to receive a summer stipend to assist them in gathering research data or completing creative endeavors over the summer, all with the goal of developing students into scholars prepared for the challenges of graduate school. 

“The McNair Scholars Program helped me dream bigger and earn my doctorate degree,” Valdes said. “I encourage all our scholars to consider how education can advance their dreams. Dare to dream big!” 

More information about the McNair Scholars Program can be found at mcnair.tamucc.edu.