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WHS graduate among McNair Scholars

Sharon Quintero Diaz to showcase research in presentation at West Texas A&M

Daily Light report

CANYON, Texas — Sharon Quintero Diaz, a junior political science and history major from Waxahachie, is among 11 top West Texas A&M University undergraduate students who will present the results of months of intensive research in upcoming video presentations.

Sudents in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program will be featured in five-minute video presentations linked to from the McNair Program homepage. Typically, students give a presentation in the lobby of Cornette Library, but the ongoing pandemic prompted WT’s McNair leaders to take a new approach this year.

“These students have worked exceptionally hard under difficult circumstances, and we hope this new method of showcasing their work brings them even more attention than usual,” said Victoria Salas, assistant director of the McNair Scholars program.

Selected students for the McNair Scholars program receive the guidance of a mentor overseeing the research project; seminars on graduate school admission process, research methods and financial aid; a $2,800 research stipend; a $300 research supply allowance; tutoring, academic counseling and intense GRE or GMAT preparation; admission and financial aid assistance; preparation for research conference preparations; and fee waivers for graduate applications, paid conference travel and fellowships.

The McNair Scholars is a federal TRIO program funded by the U.S. Department of Education designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential.

Student scholars are researching such topics as the impact of sleep on performance, the perception of safety for activities during the pandemic, superconductors, Texas Panhandle allergenic fungi, Mexican identity expressed through the arts, the impact of chronic stress on cardiovascular health, accessibility for the physically disabled and how COVID-19 has affected employee morale.

The program is named for Dr. Ronald E. McNair, who was killed in the Challenger mission on Jan. 28, 1986. McNair was the second African American to fly in space. He began his career with NASA in 1978, flying his first space shuttle mission in 1984. After McNair’s death, Congress provided funding program, dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair’s life.

Over the course of the program’s 21-year history at WT, 70 percent of McNair scholars enter graduate school directly after graduation, 81 students have completed a master’s degree (41 of them at WT), and 18 scholars have completed a doctoral or professional degree.