McNair Scholars Program Celebrates 25-Year Anniversary

McNair Scholars Program Celebrates 25-Year Anniversary

McNair Scholars Program Celebrates 25-Year Anniversary

It’s been 25 years since the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program was first launched at John Jay College, and to celebrate the program’s outstanding track record of getting students accepted to Ph.D. programs, a series of events were scheduled through the spring semester.

In late March, the McNair program hosted an alumni panel in which current students heard directly from two McNair alumni who attained doctorates, Dr. Albert Gamarra and Dr. Jessica Armstrong. In front of an audience of students and faculty members, Gamarra and Armstrong discussed how the McNair program prepared them for success in their Ph.D. programs.

“McNair taught me that you need to dedicate yourself,” said Gamarra, who like many McNair Scholars, was a first-generation college student. After Gamarra graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2004, he decided to pursue his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice at John Jay, but the process wasn’t always easy. “It would’ve been great if I completed my degree in four years, but it actually took me seven,” he said. “Even if it takes twenty years to finish your degree, McNair taught me to keep at it and never give up.”

Dr. Armstrong agrees that McNair prepared her well for her Ph.D. program, and it was because of an internship she had as an undergraduate student at John Jay that she applied to a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Clark University. “I realized I was curious and passionate about learning how to treat substance abuse disorders,” she said. Now, Armstrong is completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University.

McNair Scholars at John Jay College
Dr. Zelma Enriques (left) with alumnus Fermin Fana  (third from left) who graduated in 1994 with the first McNair cohort

Associate Director of the McNair program Dr. Ernest Lee says that once John Jay students understand the process of attaining a doctorate, they are motivated to do so. There are currently 25 McNair-John Jay alumni who have graduated with a Ph.D., as well as many more that are currently enrolled in programs. One of those students is Tannuja Rozario, who graduated in 2016 and is pursuing her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This year, Rozario was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellowship for her dissertation proposal on the transnational processes of Caribbean women traveling to New York to obtain reproductive health services. “McNair taught me the importance of utilizing all the opportunities that come my way,” said Rozario. “It gave me the tools I needed, including the courage to even apply for grants.”

“McNair taught me the importance of utilizing all the opportunities that come my way,” said Rozario. “It gave me the tools I needed, including the courage to even apply for grants.”
–Tannuja Rozario ’16

At Alumni Reunion on April 20th, McNair alumni as well as faculty members and students gathered to celebrate the monumental anniversary. After an introduction from Director of the McNair program Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, President Karol V. Mason expressed admiration for the program and those who have worked hard to make it successful. “The McNair program tells students they can reach for the stars when it comes to their education, showing them, yes, a doctorate is attainable for you, regardless of your race, regardless of your gender, regardless of your family’s education, and regardless of your economic status,” she said. “Thank you to McNair faculty mentors, who are so committed to our students’ success.”

Dr. Jannette Domingo, who was instrumental in launching the program at John Jay in the early ’90s, was among the faculty members honored at the event. Because of her contribution, the McNair computer lab will be renamed in her honor. “Thank you to our McNair Scholars,” Dr. Domingo said. “They made my dream for this program come true.”