Chuck France/University Relations

Mulu Negash is an adviser in the McNair Scholars Program, which helps low-income, first generation college students succeed.

Campus Closeup: Broadening educational diversity

Mulu Negash, academic adviser, McNair Scholars Program

Years at current job: 1 year

Job Duties:

• Provide ongoing academic advising and guidance services through academic symposia that cover the graduate school application process and life as a graduate student. Facilitate and oversee McNair Summer Research Internships. Assist program participants with the graduate school application process, including the search for financial resources. Coordinate various trips to research conferences for program participants. Facilitate engagement of faculty mentors for program participants

• In the past year I have worked closely with the McNair Scholars who are graduating seniors regarding graduate school applications. I assisted 14 students with the graduate application process and three students with research internship opportunities during the 2010-11 academic year, and at least 10 of them have been admitted to graduate programs at this time.

What might surprise people about your work? The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the TRIO programs, was established at the University of Kansas in October 1992. It is one of 185 Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Programs nationwide, designed to help ensure that the next generation of American faculty members represents the diversity of our society at large by preparing students from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral study. People always find the outcome of the program surprising. The outcome of the program is a success both short and long term. KU McNair Scholars attend graduate school and earn advanced degrees at a much greater rate than students from similar backgrounds that do not join the program. Particularly, the percentage of college graduates who have earned a doctorate in the McNair Scholar program is much higher than All U.S. low-income first-generation college students. Since our program was established at KU in 1992, we have had 233 Scholars, including 36 currently enrolled students.

• More than 89 scholars have earned bachelor’s degrees.

• At least 86 scholars have earned master’s degrees.

• At least 39 scholars are currently enrolled in Master’s or PhD programs.

• One Scholar has earned an Ed.D. And more importantly, 10 former scholars have earned a Ph.D. Only 1.1 percent of the U.S. population that is 18 and older has a Ph.D.

You work with the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service. How does the research in education at KU support, or lay a foundation for effective public service, especially at the state level? The McNair Scholars program is one of several Educational Opportunity Programs within the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service that provides public service by breaking the cycle of poverty by promoting entrance into higher education, The scholars ordinarily apply for admission to the two-year program as second-semester sophomores from KU. Participants are low-income first-generation (neither parent has received a four-year bachelor's degree) students, or are from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education, such as African-American, Hispanic, Native American. The scholars represent a variety of disciplines, but all share a common desire to pursue graduate studies. McNair Scholars program prepares students for graduate school by partnering them with faculty who mentor and guide them through their own independent research. The program prepares future researchers and contributors to society. One example of exemplary contributions to research in public service, Diana Restrepo, a McNair Scholar senior in the biology department. She received the State of Kansas Governor’s Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Poster at the 27th Annual Water and the Future of Kansas Conference in November, 2010. Her current study investigates the quality of Clinton Lake Reservoir’s water and its importance to Lawrence residents and visitors. As part of her work she has designed lesson plans for middle and high school student to create awareness on the importance of quality water.

Professional development is another mission of the institute. How do faculty and staff of the institute use professional development to improve education and service? The Institute and The Educational Opportunity programs have two annual trainings and retreats where presenters from the field as well as campus wide trainers give professional development workshops. McNair Scholars Program staff also participate in annual priority training designed by the Department of Education which include regulations, legislation and grant management. Staff are also encouraged to attend various lectures that are relevant for education and service across the institution as well as the state.

Campus closeup
Mulu Negash, academic adviser, McNair Scholars Program
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