Putting Doctoral Degrees - and Dreams - Within Reach

Renewed McNair Grant Puts Underserved Students on a Path to Doctoral Studies

The McNair program is designed to prepare first-generation, low-income, undergraduate students and/or students from groups underserved in doctoral studies, for graduate studies on the path to a doctoral degree.


Image of Peter Jeffy

Kent State University has received a $1.3 million, five-year renewal of the McNair Program grant; from 2022 through 2027. The KSU McNair Scholars Program is administered through University College.

Our program consists of an academic year component and Summer Research Institute, in cooperation with the Honors College. As part of their preparation, these students, called McNair scholars, are engaged in a variety of activities, including mentored research, and academic and cultural seminars. 

Currently at Kent State, there are 13 McNair scholars in the 2022 cohort, 14 McNair scholars in the 2023 cohort and 12 faculty mentors. 
Program director Peter Beyan-Wu Jeffy is passionate about the program and the students in it. “Honestly, our program is pretty dope, and our students are the reason why,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on taking an anti-deficit approach to student development. We don’t see our students as at risk or less likely to succeed due to their demographics. We believe our students have unique skills and perspectives that allow them to develop transformative research through the guidance of their faculty. Our culturally responsive pedagogy has supported our students in not only gain funding for graduate school but to help cultivate their civic perspective to ensure they use their successes to positively impact others.” 

Kent State’s McNair scholars see a doctoral degree as a way to achieve their goals and their dreams – and as a key that unlocks many options and opportunities.  

Setting Happiness as a Goal 


McNair scholar Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson, a junior from Cleveland, Ohio is part of the current class of McNair scholars. He is majoring in public health, with a concentration in allied health. He plans to pursue a Master’s in Public Health degree, focusing on infant and maternal health or social and behavior theories. To him, being a McNair scholar means being seen by your peers, faculty, and staff as someone whose “intellect, work ethic and drive sets you apart from others.” To be a McNair scholar, Johnson said “You have to have a passion for education and success. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizon for the betterment of yourself. It also shows that you have the grit and resilience to overcome any obstacle.  

Johnson would eventually like to become a pediatric nurse. He believes that his MPH degree will be an asset in his career. “I have learned that nursing requires a passion beyond helping others,” he said. “It requires you to have compassion, empathy, and a willingness to help others even when your help is not desired. As a person who possesses all of those characteristics, I strongly believe I was born to be a nurse.” 

“One of my biggest goals is to be happy with whatever career I decide to take,” said Johnson. 

A Lifetime Commitment to Helping 

McNair Scholar Destiny Ezeliora

Another member of the current class of McNair Scholars is Chinanuekpere Destiny Ezeliora, a senior, neuroscience major from Nanka, Anambra, Nigeria.

For him, being a McNair Scholar means “Conducting research while having a support system that is there for me before, during and after my transition into a professional program.” Ezeliora said “It means helping past, current and future McNair scholars, when possible, because it really is a lifetime membership.” 

Ezeliora finds value in the program beyond research in professional development opportunities including CV development, writing workshops and presentations.

His long-term goal is to pursue an M.D. degree, and he is considering options in general surgery, dermatology, and emergency medicine.

“Down the road, after I am board certified and well-established, I hope to open my own practice here in the United States,” he said. “Even further down the road, I would plan to open a clinic, and hospital in my country of origin, Nigeria.” 


Opening Doors, Exploring Options 

Imani Reynolds BS ‘18, M.Ed. ‘21 is a McNair scholar who is a current doctoral student in the school psychology program. She said that the great part about getting a Ph. D. is that it offers so many options to explore several of her goals and dreams.


McNair scholar and doctoral student Imani Reynolds

Reynolds said, “Ultimately, I would love to be a director of research for a think tank or researcher associate for a nonprofit that supports students in education or school psychology. Or a professor in Africana studies counseling, a school psychologist, a superintendent, policy analyst, school psychologist or have my own practice in counseling.” 

Reynolds has observed that in academic spaces, having a community of support, an “academic family,” has helped her academic success. “I have to always give my gratitude to the McNair Scholars Program for igniting the fire I have for research, presentations, and learning about scholarly questions,” she said. “The experience of going to graduate school visits, speaking to other students about their interests and the skills needed in graduate school – and normalizing the fears and scariness of graduate school. I have always felt seen, understood, and advocated for, and there is no other program like that.” 

Kent State received its first McNair grant in 1999. The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a federal initiative that’s part of the TRIO Program Authority, established in 1986 in honor of Ronald E. McNair, physicist and astronaut who perished in the space shuttle Challenger tragedy.  

To find out more about the McNair Scholars Program at Kent State, visit: https://www.kent.edu/mcnair


Updated: Monday, March 20, 2023 05:23 PM