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Westminster Appoints Director of McNair Scholars Program

Salt Lake City-November 5, 2003-While many programs help students get in to college, Westminster aims to help students get out of college, and go on to Ph.D. programs. Today the college announced that Deborah Curry will head up the first Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program in Utah. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement grant to Westminster College in order to help Utah students complete their undergraduate education and pursue Ph.D. programs.

The $1.1 million McNair grant helps first-generation, low-income and underrepresented college students prepare for doctoral studies through faculty mentors, research experiences and other scholarly activities. The objective of the program 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 and consider becoming college professors. 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.

"I am excited to be part of this historic undertaking for Westminster and Utah," said Curry. "The McNair Scholars Program speaks to Utah's present and her future. I look forward to working with higher education institutions and the community in making sure that the McNair Scholars Program becomes the premier program for growing our own pipeline of new Ph.D.s in Utah."

The new Westminster College McNair Scholars Program will have a significant impact on 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.

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