The UCF McNair Scholars Program, part of the university’s Division of Teaching & Learning, has been recognized by Excelencia in Education as one of the most effective initiatives in the United States for increasing Latino student success in college. Out of 161 programs in 25 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, UCF was one of 19 finalists in the organization’s Examples of Excelencia awards program.

Since 2003, UCF’s McNair Scholars Program has prepared students from low-income, first-generation and traditionally underrepresented groups for doctoral studies. Currently, 85 percent of the university’s scholars are enrolled or have graduated from graduate/professional schools, pursuing advanced degrees throughout the nation and abroad in a variety of majors from chemistry to sociology.

Joey Velez-Ginorio is one example of how the McNair program opens up a world of possibilities for students. After he arrived at UCF he had a tough time, even finding himself on academic probation. With guidance and encouragement from the McNair team, Velez-Ginorio got back on track and began to plan for his future. Today, he is doing research at MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds and Machines. He has also earned the distinction of being a Goldwater Scholar.

“One of our guiding principles at UCF is that innovation comes from the meeting of diverse viewpoints, and the division’s McNair Scholars Program was designed in an effort to ‘walk the talk.’ We know that helping students unleash their full potential, regardless of background, will have a positive impact on communities and the economy as a whole. It’s gratifying to know that our program is truly making a difference when benchmarked against other diversity efforts throughout the country,” said Elizabeth A. Dooley, vice provost for Teaching and Learning and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies.

The national winners of the 2017 Examples of Excelencia will be announced in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5 at the annual Celebración de Excelencia.