Baylor Welcomes Undergraduate McNair Scholars From Across the Nation for McNair Research Conference

Annual conference provides McNair Scholars with opportunities to share research, network with peers and connect with graduate schools on their path to a Ph.D.

August 9, 2023
McNair Scholar presenting research at conference

Baylor University student and McNair Scholar presents her research at McNair Research Conference. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)

WACO, Texas (Aug. 9, 2023) – Baylor University’s McNair Scholars Program, along with the Baylor Graduate School, hosted the fifth annual national McNair Research Conference Aug. 3-4 on the Baylor campus. With over 300 attendees from across the country, the conference provided opportunities for more than 200 undergraduate McNair Scholars and non-McNair students to present their faculty-mentored research, participate in professional development and engage with some of the nation’s top graduate schools.

The McNair Scholars program aims to prepare undergraduate students, specifically from low-income, first-generation and underrepresented backgrounds, to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully complete a Ph.D. program after they graduate from their university.

“This conference saw students attending from all across the country,” said Steven Fernandez, director of Student Opportunity & Achievement Resources (SOAR) and the McNair Scholars program in Baylor’s Paul L. Foster Success Center. “Participating students have an opportunity to present their research on a national stage and attend workshops featuring speakers from across the country, including the National Science Foundation.”

The Baylor McNair Scholars Conference opened with a keynote speaker familiar to the Baylor community in Kristina Campos-Davis, Ph.D., chief of staff to the Provost at Baylor. To the McNair Scholars at the opening session, they discovered that Campos-Davis had been a McNair Scholar herself. She encouraged the students to reach their full potential and shoot for the stars when it comes to their academic and professional pursuits.

In addition to presenting their research before an interdisciplinary community, McNair Scholars were able to network with faculty, graduate school staff and their peers, including at a special event at Topgolf Waco, and receive invaluable information about the graduate school application process. Representatives from 31 top universities and graduate schools from across the country, including the Baylor Graduate School, participated in a Graduate Student Fair on day two of the conference.

“The Baylor McNair Research Conference has always been one of the highlights of my undergraduate career,” said McNair Scholar Genesis G. Santos, a senior elementary education major at Baylor. “It has given me the confidence and capabilities to conduct groundbreaking research, articulate my findings to an audience, and network with graduate programs and other McNair Scholars across the county.”

This year, the conference highlighted Baylor’s graduate programs with personal tours of Baylor faculty and graduate students' impressive work.

“From the Graduate School’s perspective, McNair Scholars are some of the most sought-after Ph.D. students in the country,” said Chris Rios, Ph.D., associate dean for enrollment management at Baylor Graduate School. “As undergraduates, they benefit from robust professional development opportunities, participate in meaningful research experiences and often have experience presenting their research—all before they graduate.”

The conference concluded with a Gala Dinner that featured a keynote address by Stephen (Steve) Reid, Ph.D., vice provost for faculty diversity and belonging at Baylor and professor of Christian Scriptures at Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Graduate schools participating in the Graduate Student Fair include:

  • Baylor College of Medicine, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Baylor University
  • Columbia Engineering
  • Columbia School of Social Work
  • Florida International University
  • National Science Foundation
  • North Carolina State University
  • NYU Tandon School of Engineering
  • Oregon State University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • SUNY University at Albany
  • Temple University
  • Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Texas A&M University-Kingsville
  • Texas Tech University
  • The University of North Texas Health Science Center
  • The University of Texas Health Houston School of Public Health
  • Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Notre Dame
  • The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
  • University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
  • University of the Incarnate Word
  • University of Tennessee Space Institute
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute

In 2017, Baylor received its first highly competitive grant for the Baylor McNair Scholars program, one of the federal TRIO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. All McNair Scholars obtain a faculty mentor and work on independent research projects. Program participants are committed to enrolling in graduate programs with an end goal of successfully completing a Ph.D. Baylor’s five-year McNair Scholars grant was renewed in 2022.

For more information on the program or the conference, visit the McNair Scholars website.


The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is named for Dr. Ronald McNair, a laser physicist and NASA astronaut who was inspired to work hard and persevere in his studies by his family and by a teacher who recognized his scientific potential and believed in him. A graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McNair was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978. His first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 3, 1984, and he became the second African American to fly in space. Two years later, he was a mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle, which exploded one minute and 13 seconds after launch on Jan. 28, 1986.

After his death, Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage low-income and first-generation college students and students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to expand their educational opportunities by enrolling in a Ph.D. program and ultimately pursue an academic career. The program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by McNair’s life.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.