Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program

Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program

The UA McNair program is undergoing programmatic changes and will have a different structure starting January 2025.  

The website will be updated once changes are finalized. 

Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program:
The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded at 151 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential. The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.:
Ronald Erwin McNair was born October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. While in junior high school, Dr. McNair was inspired to work hard and persevere in his studies by his family and by a teacher who recognized his scientific potential and believed in him. Dr. McNair graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he graduated magna cum laude and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro). Dr. McNair then enrolled in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1976, at the age of 26, he earned his Ph.D. in laser physics. His dissertation was titled, “Energy Absorption and Vibrational Heating in Molecules Following Intense Laser Excitation.” Dr. McNair was presented an honorary doctorate of Laws from North Carolina A&T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of Science from Morris College in 1980, and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984.

While working as a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratory, Dr. McNair soon became a recognized expert in laser physics. His many distinctions include being a Presidential Scholar (1971-74), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-74), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75), and a NATO Fellow (1975). He was also a sixth-degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist. Because of his many accomplishments, he was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978. His first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center on February 3, 1984. Dr. Ronald E. McNair was the second African American to fly in space. Two years later he was selected to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle. He was killed instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, thirteen seconds after it was launched. Dr. McNair was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. After his death in the Challenger Space Shuttle accident on January 28, 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program. Their goal was to encourage low-income and first-generation college students, and students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to expand their educational opportunities by enrolling in a Ph.D. program and ultimately pursue an academic career. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair’s life.



McNair Scholars Program. (n.d.) About. Retrieved January 9, 2023, from the McNair Scholars program site:

The McNair program is a federal grant. In order to fulfill the grant obligations, students must meet the following eligibility:

  • Open to STEM and Social Science majors
  • U.S. Citizens or permanent residents
  • A cumulative GPA of 3.0 + (GPA Calculator)
  • You must be a continuing UA junior or senior:
    • With a graduation date of December 2024 or May 2025
    • AND planning to apply to doctoral programs in fall 2024.
  • Committed to earing a PhD (students interested primarily in a professional degree like JD, MD, DVM, etc. or a master's are ineligible for the McNair program)
  • Both a first-generation college student AND low-income student
    • First-generation college is typically a student whose parents did not complete a bachelor's degree. The Center for First-Generation Success defines the extenuating circumstances of first-generation. 
    • Low income is indicated by a student who qualifies for the Federal Pell Grant. However, further verification is necessary.


  • A student who comes from a background(s) that is underrepresented in graduate education (Latine, Native American/Alaskan Native, Black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander).

McNair is a member of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium (UROC) and shares an application with other programs where students are encouraged to choose their program preferences. However, students will be considered for all programs they are eligible for. 

Apply Now!!

Applications: Closed

Contact: Victoria Juvera (, McNair Administrative Assistant, to find out more about the program and discuss your plans or ideas about doctoral education.  


The UA McNair program is undergoing programmatic changes and will have a different structure starting January 2025.  

The website will be updated once changes are finalized. 

SPRING: Year-Round McNair Scholars begin the program in the spring semester and are enrolled in a 3 unit reading and writing intensive course to strengthen their academic skills. Students will work with the McNair Instructional Team on completing the first portion of a written research report which includes a review of relevant literature to better define their research interests.

For spring, all students must attend ENGL 340: Professional and Technical Writing which will be taught in person, on campus. The McNair course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:00 am to 9:15 am. Students are required to attend this McNair course (No exceptions). 


SUMMER: McNair Scholars who have successfully completed the spring course continue into the summer research portion of the program where they will be joined by Summer-Start McNair Scholars. Students will be registered for 3 units (GRAD 492: Directed Research) and work with a UA faculty mentor on a small-scale research project in your field of study. They will also be registered for 3 units (GRAD 495: Professional Writing) and work with the McNair Instructional Team on completing a written research report, research poster, and oral presentation. Students are paid a $5,000 summer research stipend and their summer tuition (6 units total) and registration fees are waived. They'll also attend workshops on funding for Graduate School, practice and polish public speaking skills, and have their abstract published in the UROC Abstract Review.

For the summer, a full-time commitment to all activities is expected of all students (No exceptions).


FALL: McNair Scholars continue into the fall semester and are registered for a 1-unit graduate school preparation course. Students will work with the McNair Instructional Team on completing and submitting their applications to graduate school.

For fall, all students must attend GRAD 496A: The Graduate School Application Process, which will be taught in person, on campus, Fridays, 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm (No exceptions).


The Ronald E. McNair Achievement program is sponsored through a federal grant (#P217A220105)
through the US Department of Education, Federal TRIO Programs.