Nelson takes helm of HSU McNair program

Dr. Shaneá Morrison Nelson has been named assistant director of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Scholars Program at Henderson State University. Nelson was a McNair scholar during her undergraduate studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Nelson holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership, research and counseling from Louisiana State University where she served as assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program.

Prior to joining Henderson, Nelson served as the director of student success at the College of the Ouachitas in Malvern where she developed and implemented a comprehensive student development and retention program for at-risk students.

“I am enthused to be a part of the TRIO team at Henderson,” Nelson said.  “I have a great vision for Henderson’s McNair Scholars Program. I plan to promote a cohort of students who lead Henderson’s standard of excellence in undergraduate research and preparation for the pursuit of graduate study.

Nelson said she has already started recruitment efforts by reaching out to faculty members to discuss her vision of intentional program design, collaboration and getting scholars connected.

The McNair Scholars Program at Henderson prepares low-income, first-generation and minority undergraduates for graduate study at the doctoral level. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, McNair targets undergraduate students who are highly motivated and civic-minded and prepares them to enter and complete graduate school through their involvement in research, scholarly activities, and support services.

Each year, 25 McNair Scholars participate in activities that include research, preparing for graduate school, teaching, and more. The McNair Scholars Program aims to increase the number of groups underrepresented in doctoral programs.

Nelson said the Summer Research Internship (SRI) is the onboarding process for new McNair Scholar cohorts. “SRI consists of intentional workshop modules that provide students with the skills necessary to complete and present a research proposal at the end of the SRI,” she said. “Students’ proposed research projects begin in the fall semester under the guidance of a faculty mentor and continue throughout the academic year. Upon completion of their research, students will present at conferences and submit their research for publication.”

Nelson said students also begin graduate school preparation during the SRI and develop plans of action for the academic year.

The McNair program is staffed by scholar coordinator Kyle Jones, whose responsibility is to maintain the daily academic and social activities of the program. Jones closely monitors students’ progress to ensure that they are on track to accomplish their individual academic goals.  Administrative specialist Melanie Wofford plays a key role in the recruitment effort, maintaining documentation of all McNair Scholars research and graduate school preparation activities.

The McNair program is seeking to fill 11 slots for the 2015-2016 school year. Recruitment will take place this fall with Nelson and Jones making numerous presentations to classes, student organizations, and university committees.

“The McNair Scholars Program encourages faculty and staff to recommend student candidates who are interested in pursuing graduate school at the doctoral level,” said Nelson. “We also welcome students from all disciplines whose research interests align with a field that can be pursued at the doctoral level.”

Dr. Pamela Bax, director of Henderson’s TRIO programs, said the McNair program is interested in seeking STEM students wanting to pursue STEM graduate education.  “A McNair research study revealed that a lack of participation in McNair activities and lack of STEM role models were factors that impeded students’ progress and success in STEM education,” she said.

The study also revealed that encouragement from HSU faculty and staff, participation in STEM pre-college programs, and having a high interest in STEM education were high motivating factors for students. “We conducted this study so that the McNair Program can understand what interventions are needed to help low-income and first-generation students develop and maintain an interest in STEM education,” Bax said.  

Students interested in learning more about Henderson’s McNair Scholars Project and the application process can contact Nelson at 870-230-5100.