Thirteen West Virginia University students have been named 2005-06 Ronald E. McNair Scholars.

The program, federally funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, assists minority and first-generation college students in preparing for graduate education.

McNair Scholars participate in a six-week research internship, research writing and skills training, standardized test preparation, graduate school campus visits, graduate placement assistance and other professional development opportunities.

WVU s newest group of McNair Scholars are: Joshua Austin , a public relations major from Grafton; Leilani Browning , a multidisciplinary studiesmajor from Honolulu, Hawaii; Ehren Cruz , a secondary history education major from Colonia, N.J.; Chris Hertel , a Regents Bachelor of Arts student from Salem, Ill.; Rachel Hildebrand-Jefferson , a physical therapy major from Morgantown; Ryan Scott , a communication studies major from Pittsburgh; Rebecca Scoville , a horticulture major from Houma, La.; Travis Smith , a biology major from Old Fields; Renee Stasko , a biology major from Coal Center, Pa.; Ryan Ursal , a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Slanesville; Heather Washington , a criminology and investigations major from Moorefield; Jason Wilkinson , a history/anthropology major from Kingwood; and Kristin Williams , a psychology major from Huntington.

The McNair Scholars Program helps prepare students with strong academic potential for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities,said Betty Mei, assistant director.

Scholars will participate in the McNair Summer Research Internship, which runs from

May 23 to June 30, and conduct research with faculty mentors in their fields of study.

Other activities include visits to graduate schools and cultural enrichment activities in Washington, D.C., in June, as well as the SAEOPP /UTK (Southeastern Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel) McNair Conference in July. During the conference, second-year students will present their completed research.

The McNair Scholars Program is open to full-time WVU students who have completed their sophomore year of study and have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and be first-generation or minority college students with demonstrated financial need.

The program was created in memory of astronaut Ronald E. McNair. After he received his doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McNair became a laser physicist. He was selected as a mission specialist on the successful space shuttle Challenger flight in 1984 and was one of seven astronauts who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

For more information about WVU s McNair Scholars Program, call 304-293-4316.

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