Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Our broadcast signal KUQU (93.9) serving the St. George area is operating in low power mode. More info.

Scholarship Program Helps Guide First Generation College Students To Grad School

Westminster College
Westminster is a private liberal arts college in Salt Lake City and the only McNair Scholars partner in Utah.

A grant-funded research program at Westminster College is helping to prepare a diverse pool of students for graduate school by funding summer research projects.

One of the students is Debbie Samaniego, a first generation student and Marshall scholar who just finished her senior year at Westminster. Her research focused on working conditions for migrant labor in the U.S.


During a presentation last week, Samaniego discussed the dangers migrant workers face, primarily on farms and in factories, sharing anecdotes of life-threatening injuries ignored by supervisors.


This issue hits close to home for Samaniego who comes from a family of Mexican immigrants.


“It’s not just about publishing papers and talking about the problems but also taking action," says Samaniego.


“We work with low-income, first generation and underrepresented students who would like to go to grad school," says Jo Hinsdale, director of the McNair Scholars Program at Westminster.


The federally funded McNair scholarships are what allow Samaniego and her peers to focus their summer on research by providing living stipends and academic support.


Westminster is the only McNair partner in Utah and Hinsdale has been running the program since it began in 2003. The hope is that these underrepresented students, the majority of whom are women, will go on to pursue careers in academia.


“In order to help all students access college and be retained and graduate from college we need a more diverse professoriate and these students will do that," Hinsdale says.


Former students from the Westminster program can be found teaching at universities all over the country.


The McNair scholarship is part of the TRiO program which President Trump has proposed cutting from the federal budget, but Hinsdale hopes it will survive and continue to shape the future of higher education.


KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.