Director of UW-L’s McNair Scholars Program Roger Haro will receive the 2014 Board of Regents Diversity Award during the Feb. 7, 2014, UW System Board of Regents meeting in Madison.
The Regent award recognizes institutional change agents who have had a significant impact in promoting equity in educational outcomes for historically under-represented student populations. UW System awards up to three, $5,000 awards annually to individuals, teams or units. Haro was recognized in the individual category.
Haro, also a biology professor, established the McNair Scholars Program at UW-L in 2007 with Biology Professor Robin Tyser. Since 2009 Haro has been director of the program, which provides low-income, first-generation and/or underrepresented college students with preparation for graduate school. First generation describes students whose parents did not enroll in postsecondary education.
Since the program’s inception, it has served 54 students — 20 are undergraduates in the program and 33 have met the program’s objectives of successfully completing research with a faculty mentor and graduating within three years of starting the program. Nearly 80 percent of the program’s graduates have enrolled or graduated from a post-baccalaureate program.
Haro was also a first-generation student in college from a historically under-represented group as a Mexican-American. When he started his career as a scientist, he met few other scientists from minority backgrounds, which fueled his ambition to work with under represented college students.
“Science is a great career path and I wanted to broaden its ranks,” he says.
UW-L needs to not only continue efforts to make the university accessible and welcoming to all students, but also recognize the challenges many first-generation and minority students face, says Haro. He points to a report from ACT and the Council for Opportunity in Education that shows 52 percent of first-generation students did not meet any of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks compared to 31 percent of all ACT tested high school graduates in 2013.
The Regents committee saluted Haro for continuously seeking to nuture and support under-represented students in pursuit of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics higher education dreams.
“It was clear from the nomination materials submitted just how deeply and thoroughly you have committed yourself to serving students from historically under-represented populations, particularly those in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines at UW-La Crosse, as an advocate, scholar, and leader,” it states in a letter from the chair of the Regents Diversity Award committee.