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Westminster Receives Grant for Underrepresented Future Ph.D.s

Salt Lake City-June 18, 2003-Many programs help students get IN to college, but Westminster College just received a five-year program grant for $1.2 million to help students get OUT of college, and into Ph.D. programs. Westminster is the first institution in Utah to receive a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The McNair grant, $220,000 a year for five years, helps first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented college students prepare for doctoral studies through faculty mentors, research experiences, and other scholarly studies. The objective of the grant is to help undergraduate students from groups underrepresented in the world of higher education earn Ph.D.s by building the skills and confidence necessary to move on to and succeed in post-graduate programs. While the program will be housed at Westminster, the funds are available to students at all degree-granting institutions in Utah, with preference given to Westminster, Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah students.

"The long-term goal of the McNair program is to change the face of education one individual at a time," said Mary Jane Chase, dean of arts and sciences at Westminster College. "Westminster College is proud to be the home of the first McNair program in Utah," she added.

The new Westminster College McNair program is of particular value in Utah, as the state has one of the lowest percentages of minorities enrolled in graduate education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1998 Utah conferred among the fewest number of doctorate degrees to minorities. Westminster hopes to correct the problem, helping low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students earn doctorate degrees and become better represented in graduate education.

Established in 1986, the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement program was named in honor of the astronaut who died in the 1986 space shuttle explosion. Dr. McNair received his B.S. in physics from North Carolina A&T State University and his Ph.D. in physics from MIT. He was an excellent jazz saxophonist and had a 6th degree black belt in karate. Westminster College faculty, Dr. Chris Cline, still uses Dr. McNair's Scientific American article "The Physics of Karate" in a calculus-based physics course.

The McNair program is the newest TRIO Program. In 1965, Congress established three programs to help low-income Americans enter college, graduate, and move on to participate more fully in America's economic and social life. Known as the TRIO Programs, there are now seven programs that help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education. Students enrolled in today's TRIO Programs mirror our nation's multi-cultural and multiethnic society. Thirty-seven percent of TRIO students are White, 35 percent are African-American, 19 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Native American and 4 percent are Asian-American. Sixteen thousand TRIO students are people with diabilities and more than 25,000 are U.S. veterans.

Westminster College is the only private, comprehensive liberal arts college in Utah and one of the very few in the Intermountain West. The college is small, nondenominational and focused intensively on student learning. It prepares its students for success through a strong foundation of liberal education combined with cutting-edge professional programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks Westminster in the top tier of regional colleges and universities in the West, and as an excellent educational value. For more information visit