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Program Lets Student Scholars Intern Across the World

March 12, 2010

Program Lets Student Scholars Intern Across the World

Five UC Merced students have been selected as scholars in the
Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which helps them secure a summer internship and apply to graduate school.

Each student will get a stipend up to $2,800 that can go toward paying for travel to
internshipsand conferences across the world. McNair scholars also get assistance in preparing for the GREs and have their fees waived when applying to
graduate school.

The program was formed after McNair, a physicist and astronaut, was killed in the Challenger explosion in 1986. The program aims to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students who plan to become professors by helping them get into doctoral programs.

This year’s scholars include:

  • Jonathan Vickrey, of Lodi, who is working toward a bachelor’s of science in
    cognitive scienceand minoring in philosophy and psychology
  • Andrew Dayton, of Modesto, who is majoring in cognitive science and minoring in
  • Alexis Valle, of Los Banos, who is majoring in
    psychologyand minoring in
  • Ikechukwu “Ike” Ollawa, of Los Angeles, who is studying
    human biology
  • Raymond Gonzales, of Eagle Rock, who is majoring in
    historyand minoring in psychology

UC Merced and California State University, Stanislaus together began receiving grant funding for the McNair program in October 2007. The $1.1 million five-year grant will allow 50 scholars, 25 from each school, to take internships across the world. Past recipients have gone to Italy, Israel and South America.

The program gives students hands-on learning experiences that will shape their lives and enhance their careers long after they graduate from UC Merced.

Angelina Dayton, the program director at UC Merced, mentors the scholars, teaching them how to navigate the academic world with which they’re otherwise unfamiliar.

“I get to work with people who are trying to do something without a roadmap,” she said. “My job is to give them a roadmap. I get them to believe in themselves and then get out of their way.”

In most cases, the scholars are able to secure full-ride scholarships to help them earn a doctorate, she said. The program requires that a Ph.D. is earned with in 10 years of starting graduate school.

Vickrey said the program will help him become a more competitive candidate for graduate school and allow him to do a summer internship that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

“I’m very excited and honored,” he said. “Having someone to help guide me through the process is invaluable.”