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TRIO/McNair Scholars Program

McNair Students


The Purpose of the McNair Scholars Program is to encourage, support, and assist academically promising juniors and non-graduating seniors who have been historically underrepresented in various fields to pursue education to obtaining their terminal degrees. This is done by providing students with enhancement workshops, a faculty mentor, summer research experience, and preparation for graduate school.

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a federal program funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant. This grant enables the TRIO/McNair Scholars Program at Southeast Missouri State University to provide experience of scholarly research/graduate work and collaboration opportunities with faculty as students prepare for graduate school.

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.

Ronald McNair

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 (1971-1974), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-1974), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-1975), 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 Post-Baccalaureate 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.

Scholars, M. (n.d.). Embrace His Legacy. Create Your Own. McNair Scholars Program. Retrieved September 19, 2020, from

Applicants must meet all of the following:

  • Successful completion of 60+ credit hours at time of program entry
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Commitment to attend graduate school in pursuit of: Ph.D., Ed.D., Psy.D., or D.S.W.
  • U.S. citizenship or permanent U.S. resident
  • First-generation college student (neither parent has earned a bachelor’s degree) who meets federal low-income guidelines OR member of traditionally under-represented ethnic population (includes most U.S. ethnic minorities)

This is a selective admission program. To verify eligibility, applicants must complete the preliminary application to move forward with the interview process and formal application.

All of the following services are provided through federal funding and are free for active TRIO/McNair Scholars. The services are designed to provide students with effective preparation for doctoral study:

Program Services
  • Academic counseling
  • Assistance in navigating the graduate school application and financial process
  • Graduate School application fee waivers
  • Graduate School visits
  • GRE Preparation workshops and two (2) half off fee waivers
  • Collaborative student/faculty research
  • College Success and Financial Responsibility Seminars
  • Mentoring program with student, faculty, & staff
  • Paid Research Internship
  • Travel opportunities to present research at regional and national conferences (all expenses paid by Program)
This information is currently being updated and will be available at a later time. Thanks!


University Center 206

McNair Scholars Program
One University Plaza, MS1350
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701