Yesterday, Saint Augustine’s University (SAU) announced that the university has recently been named the recipient of the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program by The U.S. Department of Education. Beginning in October 2022, the university will receive over $250,000 for the next five years for a total of approximately $1.6M to assist emerging doctoral students in their involvement in research and other scholarly activities. 

Working in conjunction with SAU’s TRIO Center of Excellence, the McNair grant program will provide support, resources, and advocacy for low-income and first-generation students working towards their bachelor’s degree with the intention of obtaining their master’s and doctorate degrees. According to the university, the goal is to increase the number of minority students attaining Ph.D. degrees. 

“The SAU McNair Scholars Project will have the ability to open unimaginable opportunities for traditionally underrepresented low-income and first-generation college students to break barriers and apply, enter, and be successful in graduate school or beyond. The Project will be ongoing in its commitment to support students during their undergraduate experience by involving them in research opportunities and devoted mentoring. Participants in the SAU McNair Scholars Project will develop the knowledge and proficiencies to become relevant to the scholarly aims of top graduate programs,” said Antonio Stephens, Director of SAU’s TRIO Center of Excellence.

Seated left to right: Mr. Antonio Stephens, Director of SAU’s TRIO Center of Excellence, and Ms. Ashley Smith, Educational Advisor, greet prospective students at SAU’s 2022 Spring Open House. Photo courtesy of Saint Augustine’s University.

According to Stephens, “With the addition of the McNair Scholars Project, SAU now can assist qualified students within their specific target area with free academic, cultural, and social services from the sixth grade to those entering graduate school through our TRIO Center of Excellence.” 

The McNair grant program and TRIO Center will serve 25 SAU students annually who meet the eligibility requirements of the U.S. Department of Education.

All eligible students will receive the necessary resources to complete their degrees. These resources include: research opportunities or other scholarly activities for impactful doctoral preparation, summer internships, seminars, tutoring, academic counseling, financial assistance, graduate enrollment assistance, financial and economic literacy, and mentoring. To ensure that the students are successful, SAU’s TRIO staff will track their progress and will help with any problems they may encounter. 

Dr. Leslie Rodriguez-McClellon, Senior Vice President of Student Experience at SAU believes that this program is especially important and beneficial for minority students. 

“SAU is proud and honored to receive the McNair TRIO program. This program will allow SAU to increase the number of underrepresented students, particularly students of color, seeking graduate-level education. The McNair program will provide students opportunities far beyond their undergraduate program experience. I want to thank Mr. Stephens and his team for their diligence in obtaining this grant,” said Rodriguez-McClellon.

The McNair Scholars/TRIO project at SAU will be the university’s first program of its kind. The university says despite being in the early stages of the program it will also provide a model for the institution.

“The SAU TRIO Center of Excellence has a rich history of impacting first-generation college students,” said SAU President Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail. “This award reflects Mr. Stephens’ leadership and his team’s service to our scholars.”