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McNair Scholars Program Supports America’s Next Generation of Scientists

CSU receives 5-year $1 million grant to continue successful initiative

The Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program, commonly known as the McNair Scholars Program, is a federal initiative designed to better prepare individuals for doctoral studies in STEM disciplines through involvement in research, mentoring and other scholarly activities. The program specifically focuses on increasing the number of underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students to enter the pipeline and eventually ascertain doctorates in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). For close to a decade, Cleveland State University has been a local site for the McNair Scholars Program and a recent five-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will allow the University to expand this successful initiative.

“By pairing students with working scientists and introducing them to high level basic research while still undergraduates the McNair Scholars Program seeks to enhance interest in STEM, and ultimately increase the number of individuals going into Ph.D. programs,” says Dr. Justin L. Wilson, director of the McNair program at CSU. “In addition, the initiative seeks to create a supportive structure that can assist students in succeeding in college and being properly prepared to earn a doctorate.”

Students in the program are assigned a faculty mentor and conduct summer research projects in disciplines of their choice. Scholars have the opportunity to conduct field research, write scientific papers, and present their findings at professional conferences. Alumni of the McNair Scholars Program have gone on to doctoral studies at Case Western Reserve University, Meharry Medical College, University of Texas Southwestern and the University of Toledo, among others.

“Studies show that students, particularly first-generation college students, are more likely to succeed in STEM fields and continue on to doctoral studies if they have strong mentors and sponsors, and a sense of belonging once they enter the ‘ivory towers’ of higher education,” Wilson adds. “The McNair Scholars Program provides the right balance of engaged learning, mentoring, and oversight, allowing students to gain the skills necessary to be truly great scientists and engineers.”

The program is named for physicist and astronaut Ronald E. McNair who was the second African American in space and died during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.