McNair Scholars kick off semester in D.C. tackling national challenges

This past week, the FIU McNair fellows arrived at the nation’s capital with wide-eyes and relentless grit to advocate for TRIO Programs, which include the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. McNair fellows also visited the National Science Foundation to learn more about graduate and post-doctoral fellowships and George Washington University.

“This was one of my favorite parts of the trip since I personally look up to the NSF for cutting edge research and generous scholarships and grants,” said junior psychology major Geraldine Cadet. “I liked how I met the actual people that would approve grants, fellowships and internships, as opposed to just the prestigious name of the National Science Foundation.”

“Visiting the NSF, which might as well be the scientific center for a lot of universities, seemed almost unreal,” said Asad Mirza, a biomedical engineering graduate student at FIU. “It was great to see them provide us with advice on their NSF GRFP and their personal stories which really added a human element to the usually stoic academic field.”

During their visit to Washington, D.C., they advocated their program to the offices of Senators Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio and Congresswoman Lois Frankel. The fellows shared their experiences and achievements through the McNair Scholars Program and touched on the opportunities the program gives to underrepresented students across the country.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is a U.S. Department of Education initiative, which prepares undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in high-quality research and other scholarly activities. FIU’s McNair Scholars Program is unique in that it primarily selects students from the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M) disciplines.

After the tour, the fly-in participants gathered at FIU in D.C. for a panel discussion with key policymakers from various types of agencies to explore how a Ph.D. degree can be critical to professions in Washington. Included was Benjamin Reinke, of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources; FIU Alumni Adelaida Rosario of the National Institutes of Health; Olivia Garcia of the National Center for Victims of Crime; and Fernando Figueredo, executive director of Career Services at FIU.

DOE fellow and junior Frances Zengotita said: “The Robert E. McNair fellowship granted me the opportunity to voice my opinions, explore my individuality and the world around us. The Washington D.C. fly-in opportunity gave me a chance to venture out into the world and explore outside of my comfort zone. I met with the scientific community from the National Science Foundation which inspired me to continue headlong in my aspirations of pursuing STEM studies despite my minority status.”

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