Who is Ronald E. McNair?
Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, a physicist and astronaut, was undoubtedly one of the greatest scholars of our time. He was a recognized expert in laser physics and an astronaut for NASA. McNair graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina AT&T State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. He went on to earn a doctorate degree in laser physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was 26 years old. In 1978, he was selected for the space shuttle program and was a mission specialist aboard the 1984 flight of the shuttle Challenger. In January 1986, McNair and the other members of the crew were killed in the Challenger explosion. McNair was an African American whose life exemplified dedication, academic excellence and vision.
During his life, McNair used his resources to overcome obstacles and to improve his life, as well as those in his community. After his death, the members of Congress funded the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to provide disadvantaged, high-achieving college students with effective preparation for doctoral study. What is the McNair Scholars Program? The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a federal award granted to institutions of higher education for projects designed to provide disadvantaged college students with effective preparation for doctoral study. At Sacramento State, the McNair Scholars Program offers the following benefits:
- Academic plan development for preparation for doctoral studies
- Close professional relationship with a faculty mentor
- Paper published in the CSUS McNair Journal
- Assistance to prepare for admission to graduate programs
- Fee waivers from participating institutions
- Strengthening academic skills
- Faculty mentored research culminating in publishable research paper
- Weekly research skills seminar
The CSUS McNair Scholars Program is located in the River Front Center, room 203. The program is governed by the rules and regulations of the U.S. Department of Education, and all information related to the program is reported to the U.S. Department of Education and the campus administration.
Successful mentoring is based on clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The extent to which the mentor engages in the following functions determines the quality of the relationship.
- Willingness to serve as a coach to scholar
- Socializes a scholar to his or her chosen profession
- Provides challenging assignments & opportunities
- Assists professional development of the scholar
- Interest in scholar’s future
- Advisement on career goals
- Provides instruction in requisite skills
- Provides visibility and exposure
- Helps scholar establish professional connections
- Provides the opportunity to apply newly acquired skills
- Promotes career and professional development of mentee
- Socializes scholar into new profession
- Engages in information-giving & provision of knowledge
- Provides training and instruction
- Provides feedback on scholar’s work
- Provides information on careers
- Encourages scholar to continue/further education
- Assists scholar in applying for graduate school
- Assists with academic & work difficulties
- Provides moral support
- Shows interest in scholar’s personal growth
- Engages in role-modeling
- Provides acceptance and confirmation of scholar
- Provides guidance, counsel, advisement, friendship
A mentor is an experienced professor who guides, advises, and supports an inexperienced scholar for the purpose of furthering their careers (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix & Davidson, 1986). Although the relationship is personal, it has a specific purpose. In order for the relationship to be effective, each participant needs to possess certain characteristics.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD FACULTY MENTOR?
In her review of the literature on mentoring, Redmond (1990) states, “Effective mentoring involves not only the transfer of academic skills, attitudes, and behaviors, but a level of interaction, trust, and communication which…empowers a student with the knowledge and confidence to grow academically and socially regardless of the environment.”
Some important characteristics of effective mentors are:
- The mentor needs to be above all available (makes the time commitment to the student).
- Interested in and supportive of the scholar.
- Have good interpersonal communication skills (approachable, receptive, clear, and able to maintain a two-way conversation).
- Possess conflict management skills.
- Ability to empower the scholar.
- Ability to honor the scholar’s need for autonomy.
- Ability to tap into organizational networks and know what opportunities are available.
- Exemplary supervisory skills.
Important personality characteristics were a sense of humor, honesty, dedication, empathy, compassion, genuineness, patience, loyalty, flexibility, and unprejudiced attitudes (Cronan-Hillix, et al, 1986). The mentors must be personable, charismatic, patient and courageous, especially in risky situations where the scholar may fail (Murray, 1991).