LU to receive more than $259,000 in grant funding to renew, support McNair Scholars Program

Lamar University will receive more than $259,000 in grant funding to support its Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program scholars.

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that the program has been renewed and will receive a grant in the amount of $259,198 each year for the next five years, totaling more than $1 million.

McNair program director Pamela Comer said that she, along with a team of LU faculty –– Dr. Christian Bahrim, Dr. Tilisa Thibodeaux and Dr. Jerry Lin –– began working on the 65-page grant proposal in early March. The team was given a list of prompts, or competitive preference priorities, that focused on the program’s initiatives for the next five years and were asked to address either one or all in their grant proposal to be reviewed by three independent reviewers.

“Out of a possible 106 points on the grant proposal, we received 96 points, which is not bad,” she said. “For us to get this grant renewed for another five years, that demonstrates that we've been successful in reaching our goals and in doing what we said we would do for our scholars.”

Established in 1986 and named for astronaut and space shuttle Challenger crew member Dr. Ronald E. McNair, The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a federally funded program that provides first-generation, low-income minority college students with paid internships and mentoring to prepare for enrollment in graduate programs.

“We serve first-gen low-income students, or those students that are underrepresented in graduate study, and the goal of our program is to really try to prepare and equip them with all they need to successfully enter graduate school,” said Pamela Comer, program director.

Each year, the program selects up to 26 Lamar University students to serve as McNair scholars. The program offers juniors and seniors opportunities to conduct research and publish, or present, their findings and assists the cohort in applying to graduate school. Benefits also include a stipend of up to $2,800 to work with a McNair research faculty member during the summer.

Comer said the grant funds awarded during the first budget period –– Oct. 1 through September 30, 2023 –– will be used to support program initiatives for the new cohort that joined the program in early February.

“We offer stipends to our scholars that are paid throughout the year and they also participate in a six-week summer internship. It really builds their confidence and kind of solidifies some of their goals for traveling” she said. “We also provide a research budget; we provide laptop loans to our students; and they get a 50% off discount on taking the GRE exam. You know, it’s all about retention and we want to see them successfully graduate from LU and hopefully enrolled in a graduate study program.”