McNair Scholars program welcomes new scholars, staff, continues to diversify campus


Courtesy of Amalia Merino

Pedro Galvan (wearing a cowboy hat) talking to scholars (clockwise order): Diego Garza (cohort 2021-2022), Aaliyah Gutierrez-Cano (cohort 2022-2023), Milo Dufresne-Macdonald (2022-2023), Makena Gonzalez (2021-2022), and Diogo Ledesma (2022-2023).

As graduate schools in the U.S. struggle to increase student diversity in their programs, St. Edward’s iteration of the McNair Scholars program aims to combat this issue. 

“St. Ed’s is very well known for welcoming students from different ethnicities, and I feel that even though we need a little bit more diversity in this institution, programs like the McNair’s Scholars program will push more students to join this institution and increase diversity,” current scholar Diego Garza said.

Named for Ronald E. McNair, PhD. — a NASA astronaut who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion — The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is a federal TRIO program, meaning it serves students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The McNair program specifically aids students from groups historically underrepresented in postsecondary education by preparing them for graduate school, and is funded at 151 schools across the country.

On Jan. 20, current St. Edward’s McNair scholars and program staff welcomed new scholars and staff, and presented program  information. This includes regular seminars on topics pertaining to the graduate application process and working with faculty advisors to conduct paid, undergraduate research.

The McNair program at St. Edward’s has graduated 24 Doctors of Philosophy. There are currently 24 McNair Scholar alumni in PhD programs, among other postsecondary education degrees and achievements.

“Our scholar alumni are doing very well,” Molly E. Minus, director of St. Edward’s McNair Scholars Program, said.

Scholars at the welcome event represented a wide variety of backgrounds, majors and research interests. New and existing scholars commended the program’s efforts.

“You can just tell that they really do love what they do, and they really do want to help students get to where they want to go,” new scholar Ana Rodriguez said.

The McNair Scholars program at St. Edward’s University is —despite its 20 years of purported success — one of the lesser known offerings available to students. Dora Perez, assistant director of the St. Edward’s program noted that the most recent application cycle saw fewer applicants than before, and that the program is looking to increase student awareness.

When current McNair scholars shared how they’d first learned of the program, the varying answers—including suggestions from professors, deep dives into old emails and Bon Appetit’s Flora, whose two daughters are in the program—held one thing in common: word of mouth. Students shared they were surprised the program was not better known, and that perhaps the university could come up with more effective strategies to get the word out, seeing as how helpful the program has been for them.

“Even though the McNair program itself is a lot of work, you can tell it’s really geared toward helping students. So it’s a lot of work that you have to put in but now you’re getting more support,” new scholar Mia Dean said. “You feel more confident about where you’re going in your life.”

Though the McNair program is not generally well-known around campus, scholars were glad they’d heard of the program, and remarked on the accessibility of the program’s application process and the helpful program staff.

“They would encourage you to stop by the office to ask any question you’d want, also other existing scholars who are open and willing to offer you any sort of advice that you might need when applying,” current scholar Micheal Baquet said. “So they were very helpful in that regard. They wanted people to apply.”

Applications to the McNair Scholars program are open to eligible full-time St. Edward’s students of all years and majors. More information can be found at