Ronald E. McNair post-baccalaureate achievement program helps undergraduates obtain their education goals

August 13, 2014

Camille Ridgeway ronaldmcnairGetting into the graduate program of your choice is a major accomplishment that takes time, effort and commitment.
Fortunately, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is here to help, through the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program.
Inspired by the late Ronald E. McNair, physicist and NASA astronaut, the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program awards grants to universities that prepare talented undergraduate students for graduate school and eventually PhD programs nationwide.
UWM is one of more than 150 universities in the United States that offers this program to its undergraduate students. Many McNair scholars are the first in their families to have attended college, and most qualify as “low income” or Pell Grant eligible under guidelines from the federal government. Matched with faculty mentors, summer research opportunities and application support, McNair scholars do more than complete the graduate school application process. They also build a research resume and sharpen the academic skills that competitive PhD programs look for when they recruit new doctoral students.
In applying to graduate school, you will need to craft a compelling statement of purpose – a personal essay describing the motivations and qualifications that make you an excellent candidate for advanced study in your chosen field. You will also need to line up recommendation letters, and complete a lot of additional paperwork. And all this comes after you’ve already done the hard work of researching what universities offer the program(s) you are looking for and identifying your top choices.
In addition to this application process, a major preliminary examination, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) , is required of most graduate school applicants. The exam you’ll need to take, and the qualifying scores required to get into your preferred graduate program(s), vary depending on whether you’re applying for medical, law or business school, or an advanced degree in another field.
This is where UWM and the McNair program can help, according to UWM graduate Camille Ridgeway.
“The McNair program was amazing,” says Ridgeway, who earned degrees in international studies and economics this spring. “It was one of the components of my undergraduate education that I valued most.”
A first-generation college student, Ridgeway set her sights on a foreign policy career early in her undergraduate education. As a McNair Scholar, she was paired with a mentor, UWM professor of economics Swarnjit Arora. Through that experience and an in-depth study of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Middle East, Ridgeway chose economics as a second major.
“I learned to think of FDI as a gateway indicator that tells you everything you need to know about the health of a country’s economic and political situation,” says Ridgeway.
The benefits of being a McNair Scholar continued throughout Ridgeway’s undergraduate career. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program provides financial and academic support to students applying for doctoral study. Ridgeway says the program’s ability to cover her graduate application costs, plus costs related to preparation and registration for the required GRE, helped get her through an expensive and time-consuming process. Assistance in crafting her personal essay/statement of purpose was invaluable.
These advantages – research connections with top faculty, graduate school preparation and application funding, graduate school visits and more – are available to UWM McNair Scholars. For more information, call 414-229-6538, or visit The McNair program is located in Mitchell Hall Room 255 on the UWM campus.