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TRIO forms pipeline to advanced degrees

Grant renewal extends TRIO programs' history of success

A pair of new grants totaling $2.9 million awarded to TRIO Programs at Bowling Green State University will help the University continue providing support and educational opportunities for students most in need.

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that both the Upward Bound and Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement programs have won an additional five years of funding. BGSU is one of only two in the state of Ohio to receive continued funding for its McNair Program.

"I am particularly excited to have successfully competed for these grants," said Sidney Childs, executive director of TRIO Programs at BGSU. "The BGSU TRIO Programs have a long history of providing life-changing opportunities for students, helping them to realize their full potential, achieve their dreams, and change the trajectory of their families for generations to come."

The programs' continued funding was hard-won against a background of federal budget cuts, he said. Nationwide, more than a third of the approximately 200 McNair Scholars Programs were denied continued funding due to $10 million in budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Education. Three of five McNair programs in Ohio were cut. Similarly, 136 Upward Bound programs were cut across the country, representing 15 percent of existing programs.

"The review process for both grants was extremely tough as there were fewer funds available but more institutions competing. Receiving the support to compete for these grants demonstrates the Division of Student Affairs' continued commitment to collaborate and partner with Academic Affairs and enhance the learning environment for BGSU students," Childs said.

The renewed grants allow TRIO Programs to maintain and build on a 40-year tradition of success at BGSU. The programs are part of a larger family of eight federal TRIO programs designed to assure educational access and opportunity to disadvantaged and minority students from middle school to graduate school.

McNair Scholars, the newest of the TRIO programs at BGSU and the recipient of a $1.2 million grant, prepares first-generation, low-income and minority undergraduates to pursue doctoral degrees and eventual careers in university teaching and research. The program is named in honor of the late NASA astronaut and physicist Ronald E. McNair, the second African-American in space, who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion.

"I couldn't have done it without the McNair Scholars Program," said recent graduate Alexis Huckabee, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at Purdue University. "Without a doubt, the program prepared me for research and graduate studies."

More than 50 students have graduated from the McNair Program since its establishment at BGSU in 2007, and more than 70 percent of those are currently enrolled in graduate programs at schools such as Columbia, Purdue, Carnegie-Mellon, Hampton, Washington, Eastern Michigan and Wayne State universities.

The McNair Program's outcomes are striking when compared to local and national averages. According to the BGSU Office of Institutional Research, while about 30 percent of all undergraduates typically continue to graduate school, only about 12 percent of minority students do so. Nationwide, only 15 percent of graduate students are minorities.

"Though we're housed in Student Affairs, TRIO Programs work across the curriculum by emphasizing research, academic advising, and career counseling. We aid in connecting the academic and co-curricular," Childs said. For instance, each McNair Scholar must complete 200 hours of independent research and other graduate school preparation activities during an eight-week Summer Research Institute held on campus.

The McNair Scholars program works with about 30 students at any given time. Typically, 12-15 rising seniors participate in our Summer Research Institute, which is the cornerstone of the program.

From mid-May until mid-July, these scholars stay on campus and engage in a minimum of 20 hours of research a week on their projects, which they have designed and planned under the guidance of a faculty mentor during spring semester. Over the eight weeks of the Summer Research Institute, they spend about 200 hours performing the research and analyzing the results. They also engage in other graduate school preparation activities, such as preparing for admissions tests, learning how to write a personal statement, visiting graduate schools, and attending and presenting at research conferences.

At the culmination of the Summer Research Institute, the scholars travel to a regional conference. In July, they attended the 18th annual University at Buffalo McNair Research Conference in Niagara Falls, N.Y., to present their research results to about 400 other McNair Scholars.

Four BGSU McNair seniors also presented their research at the third annual Claremont Graduate University McNair Research Conference in Claremont, Calif., Oct. 4-7. Nijya Saffo presented a poster, while Patrice Wiley, Desirea Jones, and Ashley Brown gave oral panel presentations.

"McNair has given me an opportunity to explore the world around me through research," said Brown, a psychology major minoring in communications minor, from Detroit.

Jones is a health science major from Columbus, Ohio, specializing in pre-occupational therapy.

Saffo, from Pataskala, Ohio, who is majoring in athletic training and pre-physical therapy, said, "McNair has shaped my career choice of physical therapy by giving me networking opportunities and providing me with the knowledge to be successful in graduate school."

Wiley, a psychology major and sociology minor from Southfield, Mich., examined romantic relationships by gender and race. She used pre-existing national survey data to see whether relationship values differed. They did. For instance, African-Americans valued financial stability more highly, while Asians valued love less highly.

"The New York and California conferences were amazing," Wiley said. "McNair allows us to experience opportunities that we never would have thought possible as undergraduate students. Presenting in front of our peers and professionals in our fields was nerve-racking but also uplifting because McNair prepared us extremely well to be informative and efficient in presenting our research."

Upward Bound, at BGSU since the early 1970s, provides a similar academic preparation program. Last summer, more than 70 Toledo Public Schools students participated in Upward Bound's six-week residential learning community at BGSU to get a taste of college life. Many of these students chose to attend BGSU, and have benefitted academically from the intensive college preparation, advising and counseling provided by the program.

"In keeping with the national agenda to increase the number of students who complete high school and are prepared for college, the Upward Bound grant is a way in which the University is doing its part to make sure the most economically challenged students in the Toledo area have access to and are ready for college," said Childs.

Over the last five years, more than 80 percent of Upward Bound graduates continued to college, and 87.5 percent achieved proficiency on Ohio's high school graduation tests.

"Being awarded these grants further demonstrates the University's commitment to providing educational opportunity to students and their families," said Childs.

Collectively, TRIO programs represent the largest federally funded area on campus, having been awarded grants totaling approximately $7.5 million over the past five years. In addition to Upward Bound and McNair Scholars, BGSU hosts two other TRIO programs.

Student Success Services (SSS), which received a $2.9 million grant, provides academic advising, career counseling, tutoring, and other services to 350 undergraduates a year to aid in student success and retention. Last year more than 85 percent of SSS students planned to return to BGSU, exceeding the university-wide rate.

The fourth program, Educational Talent Search, receives $1.7 in federal funding, and works with 740 middle-school through high school students yearly to encourage high school completion and college enrollment.

Together, the TRIO Programs constitute a "pipeline for success, seamlessly assisting students from middle school to college to graduate school," said Tracy Tabaczynski, assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program.

Ashley Strickland, who graduated from BGSU this year, is an example of this pipeline. Strickland started in TRIO's Educational Talent Search as a sixth-grader in the Toledo Public School system, participated in BGSU's McNair Scholar Program, and is now pursuing a master's degree in social work at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.