Fourteen West Virginia University students have become the school’s latest Ronald E McNair scholars and will join alumni of the program next month in the first reunion to hear the man who created the program.

Carl S. McNair wanted a way to honor his brother, Ron, who was killed in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle tragedy so he created a foundation to encourage African-Americans and other under-represented student populations to pursue careers in science, mathematics and technology.

Carl McNair will be the keynote speaker at the first reunion of WVU’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The event is at 6 p.m., June 24 at the Clarion Hotel Morgan.

“The McNair Scholars Program is extraordinary and life-changing for all involved,” said Betty Mei, assistant director of the WVU McNair Scholars Program. “The reunion not only gives our scholars a chance to hear more about Ronald McNair’s incredible story, but it also gives us a chance to hear testimonials from graduates of the program, many of whom have advanced degrees and credit the McNair program for their success.”

“I’m looking forward to the reunion to renew friendship, and also hear the alumni’s testimonials of their journeys of academic pursuits,” she added. “It’s going to be a great time, particularly when Carl McNair gets to hear these stories and bring them back to share with the McNair family.”

As part of the McNair’s vision, 13 undergraduate students at WVU will receive mentor guidance, research opportunities and financial assistance this summer as part of the Ronald E. McNair Program.

The 2011 scholars will be given a $2,500 annual stipend, graduate school placement assistance and professional development opportunities to help them gain admission into masters’ and doctoral programs.

The 2011 McNair Scholars are:

  • Olutoba Adewusi, a psychology major from Laurel Md.
  • Matthew Bologna, a biology major from Dunbar.
  • Joy Cox, communications studies major from Johnstown, Pa.
  • Juan Franco Coronado, a horticulture major from Altadena, Calif.
  • Jocelyn Ellis, a public relations major from Charleston.
  • Nicole Fuller, a history and anthropology major from Morgantown.
  • Michael Ibekwe, an exercise physiology major from Austell, Ga.
  • Shawn Jeffries, a forest resources management major from Cumberland, Md.
  • Kristen Meadows, an advertising major from Hinton.
  • Mikhael King, an international studies major from Ranson.
  • Shawnna Mullenax, a political science major from Huttonsville.
  • Ciera Nicholson, sports and exercise psychology major from Martinsburg.
  • Hashmiru Sesay, a nursing major from Stafford, Va.
  • Tandra Sias, a criminology major from Weston.

The 2011 scholars will participate in a McNair Summer Research Internship, which began May 16 and runs until June 24. In July, the scholars will also participate in graduate school campus visits and attend a national McNair conference, where second-year scholars will present their research.

Of the McNair Scholar alumni, five have obtained doctorates with several more on schedule to complete theirs later this year. More McNair Scholar alumni are expected to graduate in August or December; 65 have obtained master’s degrees or are enrolled in master’s programs; and 26 are enrolled in doctoral programs.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education in honor of Ronald E. McNair, engineer, scientist and NASA astronaut. It is designed to help low-income, first-generation or underrepresented college students earn doctoral degrees. Students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to travel to graduate schools across the nation, where they can meet with a variety of faculty members.

To be eligible for the McNair Scholars Program, low-income, first-generation or underrepresented students must have completed their sophomore year of study, be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program full-time, have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

For more information on the WVU McNair Scholars Program, go to



CONTACT: Betty Mei; McNair Scholars Program

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