Baylor McNair Scholars Program’s Graduating Cohort Prepares for Impressive Graduate Program Plans

May 4, 2020
Baylor McNair Scholars

Of the 16 graduating Baylor University McNair Scholars, 13 will continue their education this fall at prestigious graduate programs throughout the country and at Baylor in a variety of fields, including psychology, microbiology, library science and health studies.

Baylor McNair Scholars Program wraps up second year and announces new students

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WACO, Texas (May 4, 2020) – The Baylor University Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, known nationally as the McNair Scholars Program, is wrapping up an impressive 2019-2020 academic year with an inaugural national McNair Research Conference held in September and Baylor’s largest graduating cohort of McNair Scholars.

The program prepares low-income, first-generation and other underrepresented students to gain the knowledge and skills required to successfully navigate a path to a Ph.D. program following graduation through immersion in research and a variety of scholarly activities.

Baylor McNair Scholars are paired with faculty mentors who help guide student research and encourage academic development. Students can apply to be a McNair Scholar as early as their sophomore year.

“From our inaugural class to now, our McNair Scholars continue to be inspiring students,” said Steven Fernandez, director of the McNair Scholars Program at Baylor. “A huge benefit of the program is being able to break down some of the intimidating aspects of pursuing graduate school. Our faculty mentors are particularly key in supporting and inspiring our students and opening up opportunities for them in all fields.”

Of the 16 graduating McNair Scholars, 13 will continue their education this fall at prestigious graduate programs throughout the country and at Baylor in a variety of fields, including psychology, microbiology, library science and health studies.

Jesse Martinez, a fall 2019 graduate, took advantage of the spring semester to work as a research technician in a Baylor chemistry lab before he heads to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall as a chemistry doctoral candidate. He also has received Wisconsin’s Pei Wang Fellowship.

“Baylor’s McNair program had a direct hand in the number of graduate schools I applied to. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the resources, or likely the motivation, to apply to 10 graduate programs,” Martinez said.

Martinez recently received Honorable Mention for the 2020 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). The NSF awards Honorable Mentions to meritorious applicants who did not receive Fellowship awards, but are recognized for significant academic achievement, making Honorable Mentions prestigious for the highly competitive NSF GRFP.

“Additionally, they supported my research not only in the lab, but at conferences and symposiums by bringing relevant events to my attention and helping me plan,” Martinez said. “During these conferences, I was able to meet key leaders in my respective field and make an early impression on them. I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t have received as many acceptances and fellowships as I did without the support offered by the McNair program.”

Graduating Scholars were accepted to top research graduate programs across the nation —Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University, UCLA, UT Southwestern Medical Center, the University of Missouri, Colorado State University, Purdue University and more — with three of the scholars choosing to stay at Baylor in the fall to pursue degrees through the Baylor Graduate School.

“I was blessed to have been accepted to various graduate programs. I chose to stay at Baylor due to the experience I have had with Baylor faculty and staff. The McNair Scholars Program surrounded me with loving and supportive people who consistently encouraged, advised and invested their time into my success,” said Treasure Ramirez, McNair Doctoral Fellowship recipient who will be returning to Baylor in the fall as a doctoral candidate.

“I was gifted the opportunity to work with an unbelievably understanding, patient and dedicated faculty member, Dr. Emily Smith, professor of epidemiology and global health,” Ramirez said. “She helped me uncover what was always within myself: my light, my passion, my vision and most of all, my voice. Since I will be continuing my education at Baylor, I will be able to conduct research with Dr. Smith and many other impactful faculty members.”

The program, named for the late NASA astronaut and laser physicist Dr. Ronald E. McNair, supports 25 students each year through a Department of Education-funded grant. As the graduating Scholars look forward to continuing their academic studies, a new cohort is preparing to dive into research with their faculty mentors.

“We’ve had a very exciting year, and we are thrilled to be closing it out with such an accomplished and academically gifted group of students. Being able to watch these students grow and find the right path for them has been incredible. I know that they will continue doing amazing things,” Fernandez said. “The McNair Scholars Program is looking forward the next group of brilliant Baylor students.”

New McNair Scholars Announced

The 2020-2021 cohort of McNair Scholars and their faculty mentors:

  • Victoria Anozie, junior psychology major, faculty mentor: JoAnn Tsang, Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Triniti Armstrong, senior mechanical engineering major, faculty mentor: Michael Korpi, Ph.D., film and digital media.
  • Vincent Bozinov, senior neuroscience major, faculty mentor: Michael Scullin, Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Ryley Bruggeman, sophomore anthropology major, faculty mentor: Kelli Barr, Ph.D., biology.
  • Erin Cleary, senior health, kinesiology and leisure studies major, faculty mentor: Jason Paltzer, Ph.D., public health.
  • Nathan Cumberbatch, senior neuroscience major, faculty mentor: Michael Scullin., Ph.D., psychology and neuroscience.
  • Princess Dang, sophomore political science major, faculty mentor not yet selected.
  • Jennifer De La Fuente, senior Latin American studies major, faculty mentor: Victor J. Hinojosa, Ph.D., Baylor Honors College.
  • Carla-Cristina Edwards, senior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.
  • Gabriela Fierro, senior environmental science, faculty mentor: Brian Thomas, electrical and computer engineering.
  • Tierra Foley, junior engineering major, faculty mentor: Keith E. Schubert, Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering.
  • Kaylee Hogness, junior anthropology major, faculty mentor: Davide Zori, Ph.D., Baylor Interdisciplinary Core.
  • Melissa Leon Norena, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.
  • Andrew Lindbloom, junior anthropology major, faculty mentor: Alan Schultz, Ph.D., anthropology.
  • Sophia Lopez, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Bessie Kebaara, Ph.D., biology.
  • Ethan Reyes, junior math major, faculty mentor: Robert Kirby, Ph.D., mathematics.
  • Alexis Simmons, junior physics and math major, faculty mentor: Jeffrey Olafsen, Ph.D., physics.
  • Batool Unar Syed, junior biology major, faculty mentor: Jason Pitts, Ph.D., biology.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.