The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, designed to increase the completion of doctorates among first generation, low-income and underrepresented students – ultimately diversifying the professoriate – inducted 16 undergraduates April 9.
Dainelle Allen ’18, Edgar Barraza ’18, Amelia Bennett ’18, Sofia Da Silva ’18, Jailene Hidalgo ’18, Lucinda Li ’18, Summer Lopez Colorado ’18, Alexandria Stansell ’18, Miguel Martinez ’18, Rosaria Majano ’18, Nathaniel Pineda ’18, Lee Puckett ’18, Sebastian Roubert Martinez ’18, Alex Wong ’18, Jesse Sanchez ’18 and Samarra Scantlebury ’18 will pursue research on topics ranging from diseases among Carribean-immigrant communities to communication in marine vertebrates.
The program was created in honor of Ronald E. McNair, the second African-American to fly in space, who died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion. In her keynote address, Julianne Malveaux, former president of Bennett College for Women, focused on the meaning of scholarship, McNair’s legacy, and the road ahead for the scholars as future academics and professors.
“To be McNair you must be dedicated to the life of the mind, you must be dedicated to the prospects of thinking, and you must be dedicated to asking questions that no one else has answered,” said Malveaux, who holds a doctorate in ecomomics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Several of the McNair scholars noted that the program’s mentorship and resources were invaluable for navigating their journey toward attaining a doctorate.
“My parents never went to college, so it’s a pretty big opportunity for me to be at Cornell,” said Lee Puckett ’18, a chemical engineering major. “The guidance of the program is a huge help in taking advantage of the resources here.”
Added Amelia Bennett ’18, a biology major who is interested in immunology and infectious diseases, “I’ve formed great connections with my research mentor, Dr. Avery August, and the program staff and I know I can always depend on their support.”
Malveaux noted the program’s support network will be essential for their academic journey. Attaining a doctorate will take resilience, hard work and perseverance, she said. She reminded the newly inducted scholars: “once your work is finished, you will finally be able to say, ‘I am McNair.’”
Emily McNeil ‘16 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.