McNair Scholars Program Wins $1.3 Million in Federal Funds; 2022 Cohort Announced

Chip Chandler Aug 17, 2022
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McNair Scholars Program Wins $1.3 Million in Federal Funds; 2022 Cohort Announced

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,



CANYON, Texas — One of West Texas A&M University’s most prestigious academic programs recently was awarded more than $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, or the McNair Scholars Program, at WT prepares underrepresented, low-income and first-generation undergraduate students for doctoral study through research and other scholarly activities. The grant provides more than $275,000 in annual funding for five-years.

“Students who take part in the McNair Scholars Program gain invaluable skills and benefit from intensive mentorship,” said Victoria Salas, director of the McNair Scholars program. “We are grateful for this continued funding because it helps us continue to serve some of WT’s best and brightest students.”

The program has been offered at WT since 1999. In that time, 245 McNair Scholars have earned their bachelor’s degrees, and another 146 have earned graduate or professional degrees.

WT’s McNair Scholars program now serves 30 students per year, who 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 preparation; admission and financial aid assistance; preparation for research conference preparations; fee waivers for graduate applications; and paid conference travel.

Fifteen are in the fall 2022 cohort, listed with their current research project:

  • Samantha Arroyo, senior sports exercise science major from Lubbock: “Impact of Resting Metabolic Rate and Body Composition Knowledge on Nutrition and Exercise Behavior”;
  • Allan Baltazar, senior criminal justice major from Houston: “Crisis Intervention Teams: Models and Their Effectiveness in Police Departments”;
  • Victoria Coleman, senior psychology major from Amarillo: “The Fact in Fantasy: An Analysis of Expression in Tabletop Roleplaying Games”;
  • Nicholas Dominguez, senior physics major from Hereford: “The BCS Theory of Superconductivity”;
  • Aurora Garcia-Comer, senior biology, biochemistry, and pre-med major from Borger: “Optimizing Reaction Conditions for Synthesis of Bio-Based Epoxy Resins”’
  • Kimberly Gladney, senior communication disorders major from The Woodlands: “Effects of Masks on Speech and Language Understanding”;
  • Maryann Heffley, senior criminal justice major from Wellington: “Seeking Injustice Through Inadmissible Statements: Selective Hearing or Selective Accountability?”;
  • Fatima Hernandez, senior sociology major from Slaton: “Parental Perception and Influence on their Latino Undocumented Children's Educational Aspirations”;
  • Andrea Mata, senior economics and mathematics major from Amarillo: “Development of Latin American Countries: The Educational Gender Gap”;
  • Riley Phipps, senior sports exercise science major from Canyon: “Effects of Prosthetic Knees on Metabolic Expenditure in People with Transfemoral Amputation”;
  • Evelyn Ramos-Rendon, junior Spanish major from Amarillo: “A Feminist Reading of ‘The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo’”;
  • Andres Rivas, senior plant, soil, and environmental science major from Amarillo: “Determine and Compare Drought Tolerance in Different Trifolium Species in Water Limiting Conditions in the High Plains Area”;
  • Delia Salinas, junior accounting major from Dalhart: “Does Social Media and a College Education Have an Impact on Students’ Financial Literacy?”; and
  • Joey Zimmerman, senior biochemistry major from Hutto: “Circadian Regulation of Platelets in Mice.”

“I wanted to join McNair Scholars to get the opportunity to learn about research and get hands-on experience,” Salinas said. “In our summer courses, I’ve already learned more about organizational skills, how to plan and the benefit of exploring new ideas.”

McNair was one of six crewmembers who died Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger exploded shortly after launching at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

After his death, Congress named a research program in his honor — the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, or the McNair Scholars Program. It is designed to prepare underrepresented, low-income, and first-generation undergraduate students for doctoral study through research and other scholarly activities.

McNair — who, in addition to his work as a physicist, also was a talented musician and decorated martial arts champion and instructor — was the second African American to fly in space.

McNair Scholars are an important component in WT’s goal of becoming a regional research university, as outlined in the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched Sept. 23 — has raised about $110 million.


Photo: The fall 2022 cohort of West Texas A&M University's McNair Scholars program includes Riley Phipps, from left, Delia Salinas, Maryann Heffley, Andrea Mata, Andres Rivas, Kimberly Gladney, Allan Baltazar, Samantha Arroyo, Nicholas Dominguez, Fatima Hernandez, Evelyn Ramos-Rendon and Joey Zimmerman. Not pictured are Victoria Coleman and Aurora Garcia-Comer.


About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.