First-generation and underrepresented students from UNC Greensboro and across the state took one step closer to graduate school on Wednesday, April 10. For the second consecutive year, the University hosted the North Carolina Statewide McNair Colloquium to promote research, scholarship, mentoring, and faculty diversity at the nation’s universities.

The day-long conference, “Pathways to the PhD,” included workshops, a presentation from the UNCG Graduate School, and detailed discussions on the opportunities and challenges of graduate study. Organizers introduced a 3 Min Thesis Competition at this year’s gathering, where scholars had 3 minutes to explain the breadth and significance of their research project to a non-specialist audience.

“We assume they’re going to graduate school because that’s the nature of the program,” said D. Clinton Williams, associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement TRIO Program. “But what can we do to help them be successful?”

Dr. Sherine Obare, dean of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, shared insights on the graduate school experience in her keynote address, discussing both the IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and the EQ (Emotional Quotient) needed to succeed during doctoral studies. Dr. Obare also offered tips on finding work-life balance while in graduate school.

UNCG graduate students and faculty presented a panel on life before, during, and after graduate school. During lunch, participants had the opportunity to network with Dr. Gregory C. Bell, associate dean of the UNCG Graduate School, and peers during lunch. Afternoon sessions included a presentation on navigating the admissions process and the thesis competition.

“Pedagogically, it helps students understand the process to get into graduate school,” Williams said. “They learn how to network and practice how to express their research to lay people and people in their field.”

UNCG McNair scholars were joined by scholars from North Carolina Central University, NC State University, and Fayetteville State University.

The UNCG-McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRiO program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that is designed to prepare undergraduate students for the pursuit of a PhD. The program serves promising UNCG students who are first-generation with financial need or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in research and advanced graduate studies. Students have opportunities to complete research with faculty mentors, attend the UNCG-McNair Summer Research Institute, explore graduate school options, and prepare for graduate-level studies. The first cohort of 25 undergraduate students were selected in the fall of 2017.

Williams said a pre-McNair program is in the works, which would provide qualifying students in their freshman or sophomore year with workshops and professional school experience.

“We are working closely with other student success programs to figure out how to maximize efforts to get more students in the pipeline.”

 

Story by Elizabeth L. Harrison, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications