Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program

The McNair Scholars Program (a federally funded project) was named in honor of Dr. Ronald E. McNair, an African-American engineer, scientist and astronaut who met an unfortunate death in the 1986 space Challenger accident. This program is a graduate school preparation project for first generation/income eligible college students and individuals underrepresented in graduate education.

Project participants are exposed to a variety of scholarly activities and research opportunities to prepare for doctoral level study. The ultimate goal of the project is to assist in diversifying college and university faculties. Students interested in law or medical careers are ineligible for consideration. Prospective participants with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and completion of 60-66 credits at the end of their sophomore year are required for consideration.


The U.S. Department of Education established the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program in 1989. The mission of the McNair Scholars Program is to encourage students who are interested in graduate education to pursue a doctoral degree. The program focuses on first generation/income eligible college students, and students who are traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. The program concentrates on providing quality services to ensure that participants graduate with a Bachelors degree, and to improve their chances to enter doctoral programs.


  • Opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors on a paid summer research project and receive a $2,800 stipend
  • Scholars will present their research at National McNair and Professional Conferences, and at in-house symposiums
  • Participation in several cultural activities, both on and off campus
  • Opportunities to visit universities offering Doctoral programs in the scholars' field of choice. In addition, Scholars will receive assistance in identifying graduate programs and funding sources
  • Preparation assistance for standardized exams (GRE, GMAT)
  • Scholars have the opportunity to receive incentives such as waivers of application fees and fellowships from universities across the country seeking McNair Scholars for entrance into their graduate programs

More Information

Asnath Gedeon
McNair Scholars Program
St. Augustine Hall, Room 114
[email protected]

Additional Information

"Before you can make a dream come true, you must first have one."
—Ronald E. McNair

Ronald McNair

Ronald E. McNair was born in Lake City, South Carolina. He graduated Valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he received a Bachelors degree Magna Cum Laude in physics from North Carolina A&T State University. He received a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. Dr. McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of physics and was the recipient of many honorary degrees and commendations. In 1978, he was selected by NASA for the astronaut program, and was the second African-American to travel in space. On January 28th 1986, Dr. McNair along with six other astronauts died in  an explosion aboard the space shuttle challenger.

Applicants must:

  • Meet program income requirements and be among the first generation in their families to receive a bachelor's degree (neither parent nor legal guardian has a bachelor's degree), or be a member of a group traditionally underrepresented in graduate education
  • Have earned 60-66 credits at the completion of their sophomore year
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Be a United States citizen or permanent resident
  • Be dedicated to pursuing doctoral studies

Scholars are required to:

  • Attend all scheduled workshops and McNair activities
  • Meet with their assigned McNair Staff Advisor on a bimonthly basis
  • Meet on a regular basis with their mentor in collaboratoin on a research project
  • Maintain a semester and cumulative GPA of at least 2.70
  • Successfully complete the summer research project
  • Take the GRE or GMAT and apply to at least 6 graduate programs of their choice
  • Participate in various cultural and social events
  • Participate in graduate school visitations
  • Sign a contract attesting to the adherence to the above requirements

Research Experience
McNair Scholars work collaboratively with their mentors on a paid summer research project. In the past, McNair Scholars had the opportunity to conduct their research at institutions across the country including Harvard University, University of Miami, Florida International University, Rhode Island College, Boston College, University of Indiana-Bloomington, and Bell Labs.

National McNair and Professional Conferences
McNair Scholars have the opportunity to present their research at National McNair and/or Professional Conferences across the continental United States (including Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin) and Puerto Rico. Attending conferences provide McNair Scholars with the unique opportunity to network with professionals within their field of discipline and with Deans of graduate programs.

GRE Preparation
McNair Scholars have the opportunity to attend GRE seminars and courses in preparation for the entrance exam to graduate school. The seminars and courses provide the scholars with the strategies needed to perform to the best of their abilities on the GRE.

Graduate School Expectations
Past McNair Scholars, enrolled in graduate programs discuss grad school eperience, as well as what is expected of them as graduate students. This workshop provides McNair Scholars some insight on what they will soon encounter as graduate students.

Research Writing and Design
This workshop provides McNair Scholars some guidance in the process of conducting research, including the formulation of a research design, obtaining Institutional Review Board approval, and writing their research papers (tailored to their field of discipline).

Dissertation Panel Discussion
A distinguished group of professors and graduate students provided information regarding the process of developing and conducting research for a dissertation. Included in this workshop was the process of selecting a mentor, best practices in carrying out research, and the process of defending one's dissertation.

How do I get a copy of the application?
Interested applicants may download a copy of the application here, or visit our office to receive a hard-copy of the application form, as well as additional information about his/her eligibility for the program.

What does it mean to be a “first generation” college student?
This term applies to students whose mother and/or father and/or legal guardian did NOT earn a bachelors degree in the United States.

What if I have plans to study abroad during my Junior/Senior years?
The FULL attendance and participation of all scholars throughout their Junior and Senior years is required. Therefore, students who intend to study abroad during the semesters (and summer) of their Junior/Senior years are not ideal candidates for the program.

I am an international student – do I still qualify for the program?
Applicants MUST be American Citizens or Permanent Residents in order to be considered for this program.

I attend St. John's University as a part-time student – do I still qualify for the program?
Applicants must be full-time students and – if accepted – must remain enrolled on a full-time basis for the 2-year duration of the program.

I am a graduate student earning a masters degree, but I would also like to pursue a doctoral degree. Am I eligible for this program?
Only undergraduate students (rising Juniors, specifically) are eligible for the program at this time.

I am interested in pursuing a MD or JD, will I benefit from this program?
The Ronald E. McNair Scholars program is specifically geared towards students whose main educational objective is to earn a PhD. Therefore, students who plan to get a Medical or Law degree are not recommended to apply for this program.

When is the deadline to apply?
Although the actual deadline date changes from year-to-year, applications for the program are accepted during the Spring Semester. Students are generally notified of the deadline date as it approaches. Interested applicants are welcome to call/email us for more information.

Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program Success Stories