Overview of the McNair Scholars Program

About the McNair Scholars Program

The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to prepare participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. McNair scholars are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have demonstrated strong academic potential.

Northern Michigan University’s McNair Scholars Program works closely with students in completing their undergraduate requirements, encouraging and supporting their entrance into graduate programs, and tracking their progress to successful completion of advanced degrees. The goal of McNair is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society.

McNair scholars are undergraduate students who have the desire, drive, and capability to complete their baccalaureate degrees and continue beyond to a Ph.D. program.

The McNair Scholars program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to serve first-generation college bound students who also have financial need. Additionally, students who are traditionally underrepresented in doctoral programs are eligible to apply.

The program assists scholars in developing study and research skills, navigating graduate school admissions, finding academic tutoring and actively participating in a summer of real research with a faculty mentor. This research results in a publishable paper and presentation poster.

We encourage you to join the McNair Scholars program, as an undergraduate participant, a faculty mentor or simply a supportive partner. Let us help you explore your potential.

The Program's Namesake

Ronald Ervin McNair was born on Oct. 21, 1950 in Lake City, S.C. He attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro where, in 1971, he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in physics. In 1976, he earned his doctorate degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. McNair’s many distinctions include: Presidential Scholar (1967-71), Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-74) and National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75). He was also named Omega Psi Phi Scholar of the Year (1975), was honored as the Distinguished National Scientist by the National Society of Black Professional Engineers (1979) and received the Friend Of Freedom Award (1981). 

McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics. In 1978, he was one of 35 applicants selected from a pool of 10,000 for NASA’s space shuttle program. On his first space shuttle mission in February 1984, McNair orbited the earth 122 times aboard Challenger. He was the second African American to fly in space.

He received three honorary doctorates and was also a sixth-degree karate black belt and an accomplished jazz saxophonist.

On the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, McNair and six other crew members died in an explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

McNair at Northern Michigan University

The Northern Michigan University McNair Scholars Program strives to provide students with the information and experiences that will make their graduate school transition easier and more rewarding. Throughout their time in the program, students take part in a wide variety of programs, including:

  • Faculty-guided research internship
  • Completion of a 20- to 30-page paper formatted in the style appropriate to your discipline
  • McNair workshops and seminars
  • Prepare and take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam)
  • Visit graduate school campuses
  • Attend regional and national conferences
  • Present research to a wide variety of audiences
  • Monthly McNair advisor meetings

Our Mission Statement

McNair Mission: The mission of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at Northern Michigan University is to increase graduate rates and post-baccalaureate success among first generation-low income students and students who come from a minority population that is underrepresented in graduate education. The McNair Scholars program is dedicated to supporting students in their pursuit of critical inquiry through research experiences and to fostering productive relationships between students and faculty researchers. The McNair Scholars program also seeks to encourage students to embrace diversity and cultivate lifelong learning goals through cultural activities and individual academic support.

NMU Mission: Northern Michigan University’s distinctive academic and career programs are nurtured by exceptional teaching and extensive opportunities for scholarship, creativity and engagement. Our supportive, connected community empowers students, graduates, faculty and staff to contribute to a diverse and sustainable world.

Vision: Northern Michigan University promotes an active environment to foster strong minds and bodies, inspires innovation and inclusion through community engagement, and develops leaders capable of local and global impact.

Diversity Statement: Northern Michigan University strives to be an inclusive community where differences are recognized as assets of the institution, respected attributes of the person and a valuable part of the university experience.