By Mallory Schlabach, Editor in Chief
Maria Rojas spent her summer deciding if China would ever become a democratic nation.
She read scholarly articles, poked holes through researchers’ theories and decided that China could be democratized in the future.
Rojas, senior management and public service major from Dallas, was one of 20 students who remained in Abilene this summer as a participant in the McNair Scholars Program, an 11-year-old program designed to help students succeed in graduate school.
The program helps undergraduate students learn research and research writing techniques, participate in professional conferences around the U.S., visit graduate school programs and develop leadership qualities.
The program is a nationally recognized program that was created in honor of Ronald E. McNair, the first black astronaut who was killed in the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.
"The program provides valuable learning experience," said Jason Morris, director of the McNair Scholars Program. "It gives students enriched learning about topics that you wouldn’t normally receive in an undergraduate class."
The federally funded program is open to students who are the first in their family to go to college and whose income level is lower, Morris said.
"We’re seeking students who want to receive a PhD. degree after they’ve graduated from here," Morris said.
For Loraine Salazar, this was the perfect program to help her prepare for graduate school next fall.
"If you’re interested or even thinking about going to grad school, this is the experience to have," said Salazar, senior marketing and management major from Abilene.
Salazar worked with mentor Dr. Laura Philips, adjunct professor of management, looking at traits and characteristics of successful business managers.
"Dr. Philips was very helpful in helping me collect data and analyzing it afterwards," Salazar said.
Salazar said she was able to develop a survey and poll more than 150 managers and employees about certain characteristics successful managers tend to have, and have employees rate their managers and then managers rate themselves.
"It was so interesting because there was a lot of skewed data," she said. "Managers rated themselves much higher than what their employees did. Now I know what characteristics people want and need and can use that to my own benefit."
Students who complete the summer research project will receive a stipend for their work.
"You’re basically getting paid to learn for the summer," Rojas said.
Salazar agreed and said the program offers financial benefits that allow participants to work less and focus on the research during the summer.
The heaviest recruiting for the McNair Scholars Program begins during the fall semester, Morris said. Students interested can apply online at www.acu.edu/academics/trio/mcnair or stop by Morris’s office in the Education Building, Room 113.
"This program really is a community of learners," Morris said. "It’s a unique social environment and successful because we have such dedicated faculty willing to spend their summer working with students."
Although it has been on campus for more than a decade, many students are unaware of the program, Salazar said.
"The McNair program is not very well known on campus, " she said. "If people only knew what seminars, leadership skills and opportunities you have here, hundreds of people would be flocking to get in."