McNair scholars to participate in upcoming writers’ conference

The University of Alaska McNair Scholars Program is bringing eight current scholars and two alumni to attend the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference this weekend.

Sunny Mall is the coordinator and director for the University of Alaska Anchorage McNair program, which has been operational for about a year and a half and is available for students at all UA campuses and community colleges.

According to the UAA website, the McNair Scholars Program “prepares high-achieving first generation income eligible students for graduate study.”

The program is funded by a TRIO grant from the U.S. Department of Education. There are 201 universities across the country with access to this funding opportunity, Mall said.

“TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs,” according to the department.

Mall said the programs were started in the mid-1960s with the intention of setting aside national funding to assist, motivate and support students to go to college.

The UAA program currently has 21 undergraduate scholars enrolled in the program across all different fields of study.

The program has funding available for 25 students in each academic year. In the next academic year they will probably reach that capacity, Mall said.

In terms of funding, McNair provides academic counseling, stipends for research and scholarly activity and travel. The program does not cover 100% of tuition and the amount of financial support depends on the research projects that the students engage in.

Mall noted that all TRIO programs include a cultural component in the funding and “we thought that directed creative writing and visiting the community of Homer would be a good outlet for that cultural experience.”

Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference takes place at the Kachemak Bay Campus May 18-21. Registration for the event is at capacity now but there is an opportunity to be put on a waitlist. More details on how to do that is available on event website.

The theme for the 2024 conference is “Wonder in the Wounded World.”

Erin Coughlin Hollowell is the conference director. For details regarding faculty and events that are open to the public see the website at

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that some of the students involved in the program are international. For eligibility, please go to