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McNair Scholars Program boasts success from six students

May 1, 2018

Amber Beauchamp's six children inspire her every day, including to reach goals that previously seemed impossible such as earning her master's degree.

"I love English and children," said Beauchamp, a senior majoring in English with a literature concentration at the University of North Georgia (UNG). "I can't imagine a moment of not sitting there and being around children."

Attaining a master's degree seemed impractical for Beauchamp, whose children range in age from 1 to 10. That is until UNG launched its McNair Scholars Program in fall 2017.

The McNair Program is designed to identify and prepare sophomores, juniors and seniors from all UNG campuses for post-graduate studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. Participants are either first-generation college students with financial need or members of a group traditionally underrepresented in graduate education, such as African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, and Pacific Islander, who have shown strong academic potential.

Once students enroll in the McNair Program, they are matched with faculty members to conduct scholarly research and establish a formalized mentoring program, said Iris Royal, program director of the McNair Scholars at UNG. Faculty members not only mentor students in their research, but help them build their skills to enroll in graduate school with confidence, she said.

Beauchamp said Dr. Sheri Hardee, associate dean of the College of Education, has been extremely helpful as her mentor.

"She and the other mentors are able to give you guidance and understand the barriers we face," said Beauchamp, a 32-year-old from Cleveland, Georgia. "They help you get through those hurdles. They encourage you and tell you how they overcame and kept going."

McNair Scholars also have a range of services available, including personal counseling, academic advisement, assistance with the graduate school admissions process, financial aid guidance, Graduate Record Examinations prep, and other academic tutorial services. Participants in good standing in the program have the opportunity to be eligible for a financial stipend, ranging from $500 to $2,500.  

Andre Gonzales, a senior majoring in computer science from Jefferson, Georgia, said the financial stipend allowed him to accept an internship with the cybersecurity company Cavir LLC in Dawsonville, Georgia.

"The program eliminated that economic burden and I've been able to dedicate time to learning about cybersecurity," he said.

Roger Long, a senior majoring in sociology with a minor in organizational leadership from Atlanta, said connecting with students with a similar goal has helped.

"Even though we are all on a college campus and surrounded by other students, everyone doesn't appreciate the goal of pursuing a graduate degree," he said. "This program provided a community of other undergraduate students who have the desire to extend their education. And even though we are all working on different areas of research, when we pass by each other, we know we are McNair Scholars."

These facets of the McNair Program are working. Six seniors have achieved success to continue their education after earning undergraduate degrees this spring and summer.

  • Beauchamp has been accepted as a graduate assistant with UNG's College of Education.
  • Gonzales has been offered a job with Cavir. He will enroll in two certification programs – CompTIA Network-plus and CompTIA Security-plus certificates – and then apply to graduate school.
  • Long has been accepted into two graduate programs —Clark Atlanta and Georgia State University.
  • Megan Andres, a senior majoring in biology from Plainwell, Michigan, will conduct research at the National Institutes of Health under the neuro-oncology department as a post-baccalaureate experience for two years. She plans to apply to a Ph.D. program after that.
  • Sharon Blackwell, a senior majoring in biology from Gainesville, Georgia, will conduct fossil excavation research in Brunswick, Georgia, this summer and present her oyster research in Tri-Beta National Conference in Monterey Bay, California. She is applying to graduate schools.

For more information about the McNair Scholars Program, email Iris Royal at

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