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The McNair Program as a Socializing Influence on Doctoral Degree Attainment

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 3

Cheryl Bailey Gittens , University of Virginia


The quality of doctoral students’ academic and social experiences is a key element of their success in graduate school programs. These experiences support the completion of doctoral programs, especially for first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds. Framed by Weidman's (1989) undergraduate socialization model, the author interviewed 18 former participants in Ronald McNair Programs (McNair Program),who completed their doctoral studies in order to determine how such programs can serve as a socializing agent to facilitate the successful completion of graduate study. Several themes emerge from the interviews conducted that distinguish McNair Programs from other interventions to promote integration or preparation, including the presence of academic and social integration. Such integration had a positive influence on the participants’ doctoral experience and contributed to the development of their competence, self-confidence, social and academic connectedness, and academic identity. Participants derived the greatest benefits from academic program components and academic counseling. Moreover, social components such as mentoring, cultural activities, and personal encounters in summer research internships also contributed to a positive doctoral experience.


Cheryl Bailey Gittens is the Director of Undergraduate Student Recruitment and Support Services at the University of Virginia, Curry School of Education. Gittens earned her doctorate in Higher Education Administration at the George Washington University in 2013. Her research and professional practice focuses on undergraduate student persistence, retention, and college outcomes.