McNair Scholars

Iowa State nets $1.1 million to help first-generation and underrepresented students earn Ph.D.s

Iowa State University’s Graduate College has received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support its efforts to help underrepresented and first-generation students earn doctoral degrees.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program prepares qualified undergraduates for graduate study with the goal of increasing diversity among Ph.D. graduates. The program is named for Ronald McNair, a Ph.D. physicist and mission specialist astronaut who died during Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986.

McNair “scholars” develop personal and professional connections with peers, faculty, and graduate student mentors; gain research experience working alongside faculty; and learn more about the culture of graduate school.

“McNair provides a path to graduate study for students who may have never considered the option,” said Program Director Thelma Harding. “It also addresses the nationwide shortage of faculty from traditionally underrepresented populations, particularly in the STEM fields, as well as a shortage of qualified leaders in the nation’s workforce.”

More than 400 Iowa State students have participated in the program since it was first launched in 1995. McNair scholars receive a training stipend; financial support to present research projects and network with peers at national conferences; and resources to prepare for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).