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SLU Receives $1.2 Million McNair Scholars Program Grant

Saint Louis University has received a new $1.2 million Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program (McNair Scholars Program) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare eligible, high-achieving undergraduate students for doctoral studies.

Anthony Gills and Jamie Motley, Ph.D.

Anthony Gills (left) and Jamie Motley, Ph.D.,  will work to support students selected as McNair Scholars throughout the life of the grant. Photo by Amelia Flood

The grant, which will provide $240,000 per year for five years, will enable the program to serve 25 students each year, and will continue a program that past SLU McNair Scholars say transformed their lives for the better.

The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded and nationally recognized TRIO program that prepares eligible, high-achieving undergraduate students for doctoral studies. TRIO is a collection of federal programs that provide services to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Through the grant program, McNair Scholars receive ongoing academic counseling, faculty mentoring and research experience, and are able to participate in a plethora of educational and professional development activities. They also have an opportunity to compete for a faculty-supervised summer research internship at SLU, which provide stipends of up to $2,800. All McNair Scholars receive support with the graduate school application process and preparing for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  

Recruitment for SLU's new class of scholars is currently underway.

SLU has historically received funds from the McNair program and for current SLU doctoral student, Cindy Reed (A&S '07), the program provided the community, mentoring and role models that inspired her to pursue dreams beyond her bachelor's degree. Reed received support through the program during her undergraduate years at SLU, where she majored in communication.

"Before joining the program, I was only focused on finishing my undergraduate degree," Reed recalled. "McNair Scholars pushed me to think about long term educational goals and provided me with ample examples  of women of color who held graduate level degrees. Seeing my reflection in them showed me that I had work to do beyond my undergraduate degree and that pursuing that level of [graduate] education was possible for me."

Reed said that the support and sense of community she received as a McNair Scholar have carried her forward as she sought her master's degree at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and now pursues of her doctorate in American Studies from SLU's College of Arts and Sciences.

"McNair Scholars exposed me to a range of women of color and first-generation students who earned doctoral degrees," Reed said. "That gave me the confidence that I could do the same. The confidence that I have now during my doctoral studies was cultivating back then in the McNair Scholars program."

Reed also saw how the program benefited students when she worked as a TRIO Upward Bound counselor.

"I wouldn't have been the dedicated staff member that I was had I not been a McNair Scholar," Reed said. "I wear the McNair Scholar as a badge of honor."

Supporting the next students coming through the McNair program is foremost in the minds of the program's new director and its staff as SLU readies to welcome the new class of scholars. 

SLU's McNair Scholars program director Jamie Motley, Ph.D., knows the challenges of graduate school can be intimidating, even for the most passionate students.

 “I’m truly honored to be able to lead a program that I believe so strongly in,” Motley said. “I know firsthand how daunting the process of applying to graduate school in general, and preparing for doctoral study in particular, can be. When you’re a member of a group that is underrepresented in graduate education, you can easily surmise that it’s not a path you should even bother to pursue. I’m fortunate to be able to lead a team that will provide ongoing support to students who have committed themselves to this path and we will do everything within our capabilities to help them succeed.” 

The McNair program's academic counselor, Anthony Gills, who holds a master's degree in social work, agreed.

“I am very excited to work with scholars across the St. Louis metropolitan area as they prepare for post-baccalaureate work," Gills said. “I have learned a lot during my graduate studies at Saint Louis University and my mission in life is to help any student that I come across achieve their educational and career goals.”

 The McNair Scholars Program is currently accepting applications. For more information or to request an application, visit SLU's programcontact Jamie Motley, Ph.D., or call 314-977-2964. SLU faculty members and administrators may also nominate outstanding students who will be contacted directly by McNair program staff.

 Saint Louis University is a world-class Catholic, Jesuit institution educating nearly 13,000 students on two dynamic, urban campuses - in St. Louis, Missouri, and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818, the University is celebrating its bicentennial.
With a legacy of innovative academics and research, compassionate health care and faithful service, Saint Louis University attracts a diverse community of scholars who push intellectual boundaries in pursuit of creative, meaningful ways to impact the world, striving to serve a higher purpose and seek a greater good.