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PROFILE: McNair Program Director Has History With UC

Cheri Westmoreland is the newly appointed director of the new Ronald E. McNair program that awarded UC an $880,000 grant to build diversity among graduate students. Westmoreland earned her doctorate of education from UC and has previously worked for or with the university to help underrepresented students achieve their dreams of a college degree.

Date: 1/5/2004
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Peter Griga
UC ingot The winter quarter will be heating up for Cheri Westmoreland, director of the new Ronald E. McNair program at the University of Cincinnati. Westmoreland and her staff are in the process of recruiting 22 undergraduate students for the program, which provides support for first-generation, low-income and/or minority students who want to earn a PhD.

Cheri Westmoreland
Cheri Westmoreland

The U.S. Department of Education awarded UC $880,000 last fall to launch the program, named after the nation’s second African American astronaut to fly in space. Ronald E. McNair, who earned a PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the first person in his family ever to earn a college degree. He died in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

Westmoreland says UC is now one of the sites of 156 McNair programs across the country. The UC program focuses on UC sophomores and juniors who are interested in taking their academic career beyond an undergraduate degree. “We’re interested in recruiting 12 sophomores and 10 juniors during winter quarter. The juniors will participate in a summer research program, in which they will work with a professor, write their research, be awarded a stipend and present their research at a national McNair conference their senior year,” Westmoreland explains.

During winter quarter, Westmoreland says students will participate in seminars that will focus on four key areas:

  • Graduate Education – The first McNair seminar will explore the many fields of graduate education and will feature guest speakers from those career pathways.
  • Research – In preparation for the summer research program, students will learn how to develop and implement a research proposal.
  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) – Students will learn how to prepare for the GRE, as well as explore graduate schools and financial aid options.
  • Graduate School – During the fourth McNair seminar, students will apply to graduate schools and work on getting assistantships and fellowships to support their endeavors.

Temesha Corbin, left, and Cheri Westmoreland
Temesha Corbin, left, and Cheri Westmoreland

“Seminars one and two begin in January and will be held every other Friday. On the off Fridays, we’ll hold individual meetings with the students,” says Westmoreland, who adds that students will earn one credit-hour for completing each seminar. McNair senior academic advisor Temesha Corbin will be working closely with the students as they work toward completing their bachelor’s degree and consider careers in graduate education.

Westmoreland, a graduate of Princeton High School, earned her doctorate of education in Educational Foundations from the University of Cincinnati. She also holds a master’s degree in college student personnel services as well as a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

She has previously worked at UC as a consultant and research associate for UC’s Educational Services, the office that now houses the McNair program. Westmoreland has also worked at UC as assistant director of Educational Advising and Orientation.

For nearly a decade, Westmoreland was director of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s College Information Center and Educational Talent Search, a federal program that served adults and Cincinnati students in grades 6-12. The Cincinnati Youth Collaborative is also a partner with UC for the $1.8 million GEAR UP partnership launched in 1999 that centers on students in Cincinnati Public’s Burton and Parham schools. The partnership reaches out to children at an early age to show them that college is a possibility in their futures. Additional GEAR UP funding in 2002 expanded the program in 17 Cincinnati Public Schools.

Now as she works to show underrepresented students that they can take their education beyond a bachelor’s degree, Westmoreland is recruiting faculty mentors for the McNair program. The mentors would exemplify both the opportunities available in graduate education as well as share their stories and experiences of the commitment that is needed for those careers. Mentors would also team with scholars for the eight-week summer research project, and would assist the scholar with his or her final paper that resulted from the initial research proposal. Interested faculty and students can get more information on the UC Ronald E. McNair program by calling 513-556-2995.

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