Montana State University

Hogan says she's proof that students of all backgrounds can flourish in grad school

February 1, 2010

Shelly Hogan is the director of the MSU McNair Scholars Program, a program new to MSU that provides support for low income, first-generation college students, as well as students from minority backgrounds, who intend to go on to graduate school. Hogan, who recently received her doctorate, would have qualified for the program when she was an undergraduate at MSU and believes the McNair program will be a tremendous asset in helping students apply and thrive in graduate school. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
When Shelly Hogan first came to Montana State University as a student 17 years ago, she never imagined herself as a scholar.

"I was a first-generation college student and from a lower income Montana family and really believed that the outstandingly scholastic and privileged students were the ones who went on to earn Ph.D.s," said Hogan from her office in Montana Hall.

Yet, Hogan did recently earn a doctorate -- hers is in food science from Virginia Tech -- and is now helping other bright MSU undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds earn graduate degrees.

Hogan is the new director of the MSU McNair Scholars Program, a support program that serves low income, first-generation college students as well as students from minority backgrounds who intend to go on to graduate school.

MSU recently was awarded the $880,000 U.S. Department of Education Ronald E. McNair post-baccalaureate program. The national fellowship program is named for a nationally recognized physicist and a NASA mission specialist astronaut who died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.

McNair applicants, who should have completed 60 credits, must be committed to earning a graduate degree. Interested students may come from any major but should have at least a 2.75 GPA, although a 3.0 GPA is preferable.

Applicants have until March 11 to apply for acceptance into the program. An information session for interested students will be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 17 in SUB 168.

Within two years, MSU will support 26 undergraduate McNair Scholars. Hogan said that among the benefits of the program is a graduate school preparatory program. Each student will receive stipends and tuition waivers for conducting summer undergraduate research under the guidance of a faculty mentor from any discipline or major. All students will receive training in writing, public speaking and graduate school preparation through the McNair Scholars fall seminar series and GRE prep course. Students will also receive financial support for registration and travel for presenting their research at conferences locally and nationally. Additionally, students will have financial support for visiting graduate schools, graduate school applications waivers, and a high likelihood of securing a graduate school scholarship.

Hogan said she believes a key component to the McNair Scholars Program is the in-depth academic advisement and one-on-one faculty support for student research opportunities. It is that type of mentorship and hands-on experience that gives students confidence and exposure, as well as knowing what to expect in graduate school, she said.

Hogan knows that the journey from undergraduate to doctoral degree can seem daunting. It certainly was not something she considered while growing up in Stillwater county and Billings.

"I was the first in my family to complete college," recalls Hogan, who attended MSU on academic and golf scholarships as well as federal loans.

Hogan said she was fortunate to have been a student-athlete. The lasting friendships, travel opportunities and competitive experience were great, and being a student-athlete provided structure appealed to her.

"I didn't take the most direct path (to a doctorate)," Hogan said, adding that it took her 11 years to earn her Ph.D. after completing her bachelor's at MSU "Looking back, I realize a great deal of my academic success was a result of hard work and making key connections with faculty mentors while receiving much needed support from family and friends."

Still one to relish a challenge, Hogan said she is excited to start the McNair Program from the ground up. She said the McNair director position allows her to enjoy her two passions: mentoring students and being close to her family in Montana. She also teaches courses in nutrition in the MSU College of Education Health and Human Development at MSU.

"The ... (McNair) program speaks to me," Hogan said. "I am a firm believer that higher education will open doors to opportunities that you often never knew existed. I am a proof of that."

For more information about MSU McNair's program, see: Or, call the McNair Scholars Program at 994-5072.

Shelly Hogan (406) 994-5072,