University gets federal funding to boost minority student success

By Theresa Evans

Over 105 underrepresented Rider students have participated in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program since 2007. As of October, Rider was named one of only five colleges in New Jersey to receive federal funding for the program this year, which marks the 10th year in a row.

The McNair program is the “only concentrated vehicle dedicated to enrolling Rider students into graduate school,” according to Angelica Benitez, the program’s assistant director.  In particular, it ensures that talented first-generation, income-eligible and underrepresented students progress into graduate school, and eventually, doctoral programs.

“The McNair Scholars Program is designed to ensure completion of the bachelor’s degree, provide graduate school preparation leading to enrollment in post-baccalaureate degree programs, with the goal of obtaining a doctoral degree,” Benitez said.

According to Benitez, 63 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) scholars have enrolled in graduate programs, four have achieved a doctoral degree and 20 are “in the doctoral pipeline.”

Every year, about 27 students are assisted by the program, Benitez said.

“Right now I am applying to graduate school in hopes of getting my Ph.D. in social psychology,” said senior psychology major Starlett Hartley. “Although I feel like I am aiming high, I know this program has only strengthened my chances of getting into a graduate program.”

The future of the McNair program will ensure that students are prepared to enroll in graduate programs “with confidence, proficiency and determination,” mentioned Benitez.

“Rider University successfully submitted its first McNair grant proposal and has featured the program on campus since 2007,” said Benitez. “On October 1, 2017, the McNair Scholars Program began its third 5-year funding cycle through 2022.” 

In order to obtain the McNair grant, Rider took part in “a rigorous national competition” among other institutions of higher education where a proposal was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, according to Benitez.

“Grants are read and scored based on the expressed need of the program at the institution and its demonstrated ability to meet the ambitious objectives,” said Benitez. “Rider’s grant proposal yielded a perfect score (100) and with its prior experience points added, the proposal fell within what is called the ‘funding band.’”

McNair Scholar participants can be rewarded up to $2,800 for their research. They “receive graduate enrollment preparation, mentoring, information literacy and computer research skills, financial literacy, in-depth research opportunities and more. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis,” Benitez added.

“I am truly honored to be a McNair scholar, it is a title I hold close to my heart. Not only was I allowed to take the summer off from waitressing to conduct research, but the program also allowed me to really work toward the goal of presenting my work at a conference,” said Hartley. “Between the incredible bonding experiences I have received from this program, the GRE prep courses that we had, and the trips to Texas and Georgia for symposiums and conferences, I have the utmost gratitude for our director and the program as a whole. Physically, I was able to present and be rewarded for it, but mentally, this program strengthened my beliefs that there is always hope for the future.”

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