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McNair Scholars Program

  1. Sep 12, 2006 #1
    Does anyone else out there have any experience with the McNair scholars program? The program is designed to help under represented undergrads get into graduate school.

    I'm a junior physics major who just started the program this fall, and I am already begining to question if the benefits that I will receive from the program will outweigh the amount of work I am putting in. We read about 4-5 essays per week, write a 3-5 page essay per week, free write in our journals etc. All of the material has a heavy liberal arts/sociology slant and is not really relevant to my studies. The purpose of all this work is transform students into well rounded scholars, but the program (at least at my school) is really geared more towards the liberal arts/soft sciences and less towards the hard sciences.

    The problem is that I feel like I am wasting valuable time (8-10 hours) a week on this program, when I could be using this time to learn more physics. When I have to write in my journal, all I do is rant about how much I hate reading these essays and that I would rather be studying physics.

    I plan on entering grad school, and everything that I have learned about graduate physics admissions committees indicates that they are only interested in my abilities in physics, and not interested in how "rounded" I am. So should I drop out of the program to and use the time to improve my knowledge of physics? Would being a McNair scholar improve my chances for graduate admissions into physics in any significant way?

    Thanks for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2006 #2
    Hi Unit_Circle, it sounds like the program you're in has it's heart in the right place but doesn't quite meet your needs. If it's relatively easy and administratively painless, I would place my vote for dropping the program and focusing on physics. Maybe there is some middle ground that you and the program directors can work out? Writing is very important in science and it may not be bad to have a strong writing background.

    In terms of what grad school wants, you're right: they want to invest in a student with strong research potential. Diversity is a secondary goal, if it's a goal at all.

  4. Sep 16, 2006 #3

    At my previous University, there was a McNair Scholars program. I did research and attended undergraduate research conferences, and many of the McNair Scholars were there as a group. At that university, the program focused quite a bit on research and giving undergraduates experience in researching... they would pay to have them travel to conferences, required that they did research during the semesters in which they participated in the program, etc. I think the program at that university was quite good in that it gave very valuable experience--especially for those looking to go to graduate school.

    I'm not sure how the program works at your school. Did you try seeing about their future plans? Is what you described all that the program will consist of? If so, I don't think it would benefit you to be in it... you most likely could spend that time doing undergraduate research, which would be much more valuable for graduate admissions. However, if they have some plans to fund research for you (the above mentioned university's McNair program did this--they provided a stipend for each member to do research), then I would stick around. See if they can work anything out with you... the program is there to benefit you.

    Hope this helps some.
  5. Sep 17, 2006 #4
    My program also has the research component that you describe. I have actually decided to remain in the program and grind it out, mostly because my math major friend in the program persuaded me. He basically said "Dude don't leave me all alone!" since we are the only two science/math majors in our seminar. I guess I will just have to sleep less. Thanks for both of your replies.
  6. Sep 17, 2006 #5
    The year before I graduated the only student accepted into a decent grad school program from our physics program was a McNair Scholar.
  7. Sep 18, 2006 #6
    I too am a physics major just starting the McNair program, and I understand your frustration about it being full of social sciences people. Considering McNair was as an astronaut, you don't expect to be surrounded by psychology and history majors in the program. I'm the only remote science major at my school's program. I think last year they had a biology major.
    However, my school doesn't make us write in a journal or read essays. It focuses on the research aspect, has a weekly workshop, and you meet with a grad student mentor once a month. I definitely recommend staying in if you can bear it, because I know a lot of schools have slots just for a McNair student, and some even offer fellowships automatically if you get the slot.
    I do wish it was more science based. I get tired of the people running the program saying "I don't know how it is with physics, but..", and talking about all the time you'll spend in the library, because for these guys, research means reading books.( At the last conference, an English major presented his research, which was an argument that the comic book "Kingdom Come" could be the great American epic.) But they're really supportive and good at keeping me on track for grad school stuff, so the one he is pretty cool.
  8. Sep 18, 2006 #7
    This might be a bit off-topic, but does anyone else get frustrated with the writing style and content of papers written by academics in the liberal arts? They seem to love using words for there own sake, instead of the plain english that us science and math types are used to. They always base their arguments on appeals to authority, and other similar types of "fuzzy" logic. Their politics always lean to left as if it is a prerequisite to working in the liberal arts. I also find their "post-modernism" contradictory. One one hand, they claim that ideals of the Enlightenment such as objectivity and truth are false, and on the other hand the academy that they are part of is based on these ideals. If everything is subjective, why do they spend so much time pontificating on what's wrong with our social structures, as if there some social ideal (or "truth") that we should all be striving for? I guess I just don't get what these people are all about.

    I used to tutor remedial math at my university. Most of my students were liberal arts majors who needed to pass remedial algebra as a pre-req for their required 3 credit math course. They would always say "This stuff is boring," "I'll never get it," "Why do I have to know this?" etc. I guess the shoe is on the other foot now, huh? I'm the frustrated student!
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2006
  9. Sep 19, 2006 #8
    I enjoy writing and artsy fartsy stuff as well as science/math, and was some kind of arts major for 3 years before switching to physics. The problem was, you could spend all sorts of time making a painting or finding just the right word for a paper, but it all came down to someone's opinion, and it still accomplished nothing. All that work for something useless. When I was an RTV major, I had the final straw when DJing for the radio station on a weekend. A storm had blown the transmitter out the night before, and no one was coming in on the weekend to fix it, yet they still expected me to play the songs and talk into the mic-- to no one, not being recorded or heard. I inevitably switched because I just couldn't stand being around people who never used logic!
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