McNair Scholar Cole Ward to pursue change with his UND research


Kate Menzies

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McNair Scholar Cole Ward to pursue change with his UND research

For Cole Ward, the McNair Forum isn't just an opportunity to showcase his research, it's an opportunity to link his field of study with societal issues.

As part of this year's Forum, Ward is presenting the topic "Factors Affecting the High School Dropout Decisions of Rural Native American and other Youth."

This topic is one that is near and dear to Ward.

"Many of my friends who I started school with did not graduate high school. In fact, from when I started freshman year to when I graduated, only half of our class received their diploma," said Ward.

The low graduation rate his class experienced stirred up many questions for Ward.

"From that day on, I wondered what happened to so many students, primarily Native Americans. Was there something society or the high school could have done to help?"

Ward hopes that once his results are finalized, he will be able to share them with the Native American Tribes and other interested institutions.

This research would not have been possible without the help of the McNair Program.

The Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program encourages students to prepare for graduate studies by providing opportunities to define goals, engage in research and to develop the skills and student faculty mentor relationships vital to success at the doctoral level.

Participants of the Program are low-income, first-generation college students of junior or senior standing, who are from a group underrepresented at the doctoral level of targeted departments.

Aside from working on research from a grad perspective, the McNair Program surrounds students with mentors who have completed their doctorate.

"Since 2012, I have been working weekly with my mentor, Dr. Wendelin Hume," said Ward. "Words cannot explain what I have learned from watching her work and the many countless hours she spent working to help me complete every step of the research process."

Ward plans on graduating this spring with a degree in Criminal Justice, a field that his father and brother are actively involved with.

"It became the family profession. I took to it immediately after listening to my father and brother talk about it," said Ward.

Ward's journey at UND began when his brother took him on a tour of campus. After his tour, he knew UND was the right place for him.

"The education provided here has changed every aspect of my life," said Ward.

UND has provided him with the opportunity to study abroad in France, helping him to learn new languages, cultures and traditions. The professors are another aspect of UND that Ward has come to appreciate.

"The relationships I have built with these professors has been beneficial, because during every hardship that I have encountered, one of them has stepped in and made a difference," said Ward.

Looking back, the McNair Program and UND have provided Ward a chance to expand his horizons and partake in beneficial educational research opportunities.

"The most important thing I have been able to do is experience new and challenging ideas every day since I arrived and I would not change that for the world."

Kate Menzies University & Public Affairs student writer

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