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Commitment to students draws attention nationwide

Steve Burkett helped found the McNair Program at WSU in 1999. But he didn’t stop there. Though his quiet demeanor and measured speech belie the reputation, he is a “mover and shaker” on the McNair scene nationwide, says Howard Grimes, dean of the WSU Graduate School.

The McNair Program prepares low-income, first-generation and underrepresented (Native American, African American and Chicana/o Latina/o) undergraduates for future doctoral studies.

Burkett is one year into his two-year appointment to the McNair Joint Committee of the Council of Graduate Schools/Council of Opportunity in Education, which consists of two representatives appointed by each of the two organizations. He worked for two years on a national task force to enhance minority presence in graduate education.

“Steve is known across the U.S. for his commitment to facilitating access to graduate school, particularly for underrepresented minorities,” says Orlando Taylor, graduate school dean at Howard University and a national leader in graduate education and the McNair Program.

Because Burkett is associate dean of a major university graduate school, he has helped gain credibility and support, including financial support, for the McNair Program nationwide, Taylor says. His ability to attract undergraduates to graduate school through participation in the McNair Program has been a benefit to that program and also to WSU, he says.

Despite his many accomplishments, Burkett says he still is waiting for the big one — the first of WSU’s McNair students to complete a Ph.D. Many are close, he says, and he’s hopeful the first may finish this spring.

In the meantime, he’s pleased with the overall success of WSU’s McNair Program. He continues to work to gain academic credit at WSU for the students who take the 400-level McNair course and to make the program better known throughout the university.

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