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McNair Scholars program celebrates 20 years at Boise State

In 2003, Greg Martinez, director of the Center for Multicultural and Educational Opportunities at Boise State, wrote the first McNair grant in the university’s history. The federally-funded McNair Scholars program helps low income, first-generation and underrepresented students to advance through their undergraduate programs and become desirable candidates for funded post-graduate and doctoral programs.

“Just a few days before the grant cycle began that year on October 1, I received word that we were funded,” said Martinez. “We needed to serve 22 students in the first year – finding those students was a daunting task with the late notice, but between January and June of 2004, we recruited our first cohort of 24 students.”

Chris Mathias at the McNair 20th anniversary celebration. Photo by Hillary O’Brien.

Chris Mathias, who was student body president at Boise State from 2001-03, was part of that first cohort. He credits the McNair program with providing him an opportunity to conduct original research as an undergraduate student, which helped prepare him to apply to graduate programs. Mathias went on to complete eight years of graduate education, earning both J.D. and Ph.D. degrees with funding assistance from the McNair program. Mathias now serves as the state representative for District 19B in the Idaho legislature.

“(The McNair program) instilled in me the self-confidence necessary to become the best and most impactful version of myself,” said Mathias. “I can confidently say that I would not be where I am at today but for the McNair Scholars program.”

Dave Estrada at a podium speaking at the October 30 event.
Dave Estrada, currently an associate professor in Material Science and Engineering at Boise State, was part of the first cohort of McNair Scholars. Estrada spoke at the 20th anniversary celebration. Photo by Hillary O’Brien.

McNair program alumni, staff and special guests recently gathered on campus to commemorate the program’s 20th anniversary. Alumni who spoke at the event shared how the program impacted their success at Boise State and in their graduate programs. To date, the program has served 215 students.

Qualified students interested in joining the program can visit the McNair Scholars website to find more information and apply.