Seventeen West Virginia University students have been named 2007 Ronald E. McNair Scholarsa prestigious national award named after astronaut Ronald McNair, who was killed during the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

The program, funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education, assists first-generation, college students in minority and underrepresented groups in preparing for graduate school programs. Scholars receive academic stipends, faculty mentors, professional development opportunities and graduate placement assistance.

The newest class of McNair Scholars includes: Joseph Bailey , a history and English major from Prosperity, W.Va.; David Bello , an English major from Parkersburg; Kimberly Bonilla-Rodriguez , a journalism major from Montclair, Va.; Whitney Burks a pre-psychology major from Morgantown; Adam Cagle , a pre-journalism major from Weirton; Danielle Castillo , a pre-biology major from Morgantown, Ashley Daniels , a speech pathology and audiology major from Fairmont; Sparkle Davis , a marketing major from Decatur, Ga.; Chelsea Derlan , a psychology and Spanish dual major from Cumberland, Md.; Sean Dougherty , a forest resources management and wildlife/fisheries resources major from Maysville, W.Va.; Victoria Gilliam , an exercise physiology major from Charleston; Adrienne Gauna , a forensics major from Washington, Pa.; Katasha Leggett , a criminology major from McKeesport, Pa.; Jason Likens , a biology major from Terra Alta, W.Va.; Jesse Potts , an English major from Berkeley Springs, W.Va.; Adrian Sykes , a biology major from Moon Township, Pa. and Toby Vernon , an international studies and geography major from Morgantown.

The new class of McNair Scholars will participate in the McNair Summer Research Institute May 21-June 29. The six-week project will provide the students an opportunity to visit numerous college campuses, learn about graduate programs and meet with faculty and graduate students from the programs.

The McNair Scholars will also be enrolled in two McNair sponsored research classes and attend the National McNair Research Conference at State University of New York at Buffalo in July. During the conference first-year McNair Scholars will observe presentations by other McNair scholars from across the country and second-year scholars will present their research projects at the conference.

One of the many benefits of the program is the summer research opportunity,said Betty Mei, assistant director of WVU s McNair Scholars Program.The institute provides students training on conducting independent research and builds the skills necessary for entering a graduate program. They will have an opportunity to participate in seminars including Graduate Record Examinations test preparations, developing a personal statement and resume writing workshops.

The McNair Scholars Program is open to full-time, WVU students in their sophomore year with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0.

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