Indiana State University Newsroom

McNair program prepares students for graduate study, helps with retention

November 30, 2011

Demarcus Sneed was the first of his family to take on the challenge of earning a college degree.

A McNair Scholar at Indiana State University, Sneed is about to complete that challenge. He is set to graduate December 17 with a Bachelor of Science in health and physical education.

"It feels good to be the first person in my family to get a college degree," Sneed said. "Hopefully my accomplishments can inspire others to follow in my footsteps."

Being a first-generation student can present obstacles since Sneed and others like him don't have relatives with whom they can compare notes.

"Even though I could not relate my college experiences with my family members, there was still a lot of support and encouragement," he said.

Sneed's bachelor's degree will be a hard-earned accomplishment, but the 23-year-old from Hammond isn't going to stop there. He plans to pursue a master's degree and eventually even a doctorate.

None of that surprises Matt Pearcey, director of the McNair Graduate Opportunity Program at Indiana State. McNair Scholars at ISU enjoy a 99 percent graduation rate and 60 percent of all graduates in the program go on to graduate school by the fall following their baccalaureate graduation.

"Students ought to be planning for their graduate education as freshmen in college," said Pearcey, who has been involved with the program since 2007. "The McNair program prepares students to be able to put together their applications, take the Graduate Record Examination, and conduct research."

The program provides opportunities for first-generation, low-income and under-represented minority students. It helps eligible students through tutoring, training and experiential learning.

With research being largely important in graduate study, McNair students have the opportunity to conduct their own research during a summer internship.

The program provides students a $2,800 stipend for eight weeks of work with a faculty mentor researching a topic of their choice. At the end of the summer, they present their research to a panel of administrators and have opportunities to present their research at national conferences.

Sneed presented his research on "The Effectiveness of the CHIP (Coronary Health Improvement Program)" at the Indiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance conference in Indianapolis Nov. 10.

Sneed, an AmeriCorps member, worked with faculty mentor Matthew Hutchins, assistant professor of applied health sciences, to research the correlation between healthy living and the risk of heart disease. Sneed also examined the effectiveness of the Wabash Valley CHIP program, a local healthy living initiative.

"I used my AmeriCorps volunteer site, the Maple Center for Integrative Health, to do research on the effectiveness of the CHIP program," Sneed said.

By conducting pretests and posttests, Sneed found that participants active in the CHIP program showed improvements in components linked to heart disease including body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

At least two other McNair Scholars at ISU have also gained valuable research experience and have presented at national conferences this fall.

Amy Dubois, a senior language studies major, had the opportunity to research "Roman Symbols in American Architecture" during a trip to Italy. Dubois examined how two Roman symbols, the lion and the eagle, are still used American Architecture today.

Mary Francis, a senior psychology major, presented her research on the "Effects of Parental Alcohol Involvement on College Student Development" at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference in St. Louis Nov. 3.

"We hope that the McNair program helps students better understand what research is and how to conduct it," Pearcey said. "We want them to have more confidence."

Sneed credits the program with giving him the experience and guidance to be successful in meeting his next challenge.

"I have learned that you have to be a well-rounded individual for graduate school because most programs look for students that can succeed in all aspects of the graduate school experience," he said. "McNair exposes you to different aspects of graduate school that regular college courses do not."

For more information on the program or to see what other McNair scholars are researching, visit

Photo:  - Demarcus Sneed

Photo: - Matthew Pearcey

Contact: Matthew Pearcey, McNair Graduate Opportunity Program, director, at 812-237-8315

Writer: Britany Dean, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, at 812-237-3773