Investigating the McNair Program and alumni outcomes.
The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is a federal program designed to support students from first-generation, low-income, and racial or ethnic minority households. However, little research has been conducted to determine how effective this program is in helping these marginalized students succeed in enrolling, persisting, or graduating from graduate school. For this reason, this dissertation will provide two studies to investigate if and to what extent the program supports students. The first paper is a systematic literature review that synthesizes all peer-reviewed work regarding the program’s effectiveness. Findings from this review suggest that the program does benefit participants. Specifically, the program provides academic, financial, social, and affective benefits to current and former alumni. From this review, multiple gaps were found. Few studies examine student progress through a graduate student theoretical lens and over a long period of time. As such, the second paper is an embedded explanatory case study to examine how the program supported students throughout the phases of doctoral study. Twelve alumni from one top program participated in the study, indicating that the program benefited them during their undergraduate degree until after they attained their doctoral degree. These supports were in four major areas: academic, financial, social (peers), and social (faculty/staff). Supports varied in type and intensity depending on the phase of the doctoral program. Results suggest the program should continue to be funded and programs should incorporate formal and informal programming to reap the most benefits for its students.