University of Rochester

Largest Class of McNair Program Seniors Heads to Graduate School

May 13, 2005

Fourteen graduating seniors of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at the University of Rochester will attend graduate school in the fallóthe largest number to go directly into graduate studies in the programís 13-year history. McNair students express an early interest in graduate study and are supported in that goal during their years in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at Rochester.

ďThis group of students is exemplary of what the Rochester Curriculum is all about; having the freedom to explore the subjects and questions that intrigue them, these students learn what they love and are motivated to continue their educational careers beyond the bachelorís degree. Rochester McNair Scholars take full advantage of everything the College has to offer,Ē says William Scott Green, dean of the College.

Ronald McNair, a physicist and the second African American to fly in space, realized his dream of becoming an astronaut, and then flew on his first mission in 1984. On Jan. 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded and killed McNair and six other crew members.

After the disaster, the U.S. Congress approved funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority college students who pursue and complete the doctoral degree. The programís goal is to attract these students into careers as researchers and professors on the university level.

First funded in 1992, the McNair Program at Rochester has served 294 students, 261 of whom have earned their baccalaureate degrees. Of those graduates, 182, or 70 percent, have gone on to graduate work in a wide variety of fields at institutions across the country.

ďMcNair scholars form a community and are among the best and brightest of Rochester students. This particular group has set a very high standard of academic excellence and determination that is quite inspiring,Ē states Beth Olivares, director of the program. ďI applaud their accomplishments and look forward to seeing them flourish in their new academic and intellectual pursuits.Ē

At the University of Rochester, the Class of 2005 has 17 McNair scholars; besides those going immediately to graduate school, one will teach English in France and two others are seeking full-time employment.

The McNair Program graduates are:

Joyce Akwaa of Bronx, N.Y., masterís program in education at the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at Rochester; Natalie Baptiste of Miami, master of public health (deferred) at the University of Florida; Yude Chen of Brooklyn, N.Y., doctoral program in fluid mechanics at Stanford University (also a recipient of the National Science Foundation graduate fellowship); Dan Chen of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., masterís program in biomedical engineering at Cornell University; Edgar Cuji of New York City, doctoral program in aerospace engineering at Cornell University; Ling Dong of Brooklyn, N.Y., doctoral program in biomedical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania; Sasha Eloi of Coral Springs, Fla., masterís program in linguistics at Syracuse University.

LaShara Evans of Rochester, considering masterís in education programs at the Warner School and masterís in education or public health at SUNY Albany; Rene Herbert of Brooklyn, N.Y., masterís program in public health at Yale University; Zhuohan Liang of Brooklyn, N.Y., doctoral program in physics at Johns Hopkins University; LaToya McQuater of Mitchellville, Md., considering masterís in social work programs; Gordon Rubin of Brooklyn, N.Y., masterís program in acoustics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Jan Wong of Penfield, N.Y., considering a medical degree program; and Yanrong Zhang, of Philadelphia, masterís program in biomedical engineering at Purdue University.

The other McNair graduates are Naomi Extra of Highland, N.Y., who will be teaching English in France; and Emily Medina of New York City, who is graduating with a major in health and society; and Julie Stenger of Pittsford, N.Y., who is graduating with a major in psychology.