McNair at ISU

The Iowa State University McNair Program, named for Dr. Ronald E. McNair, encourages low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented undergraduates to pursue graduate studies. The overall goal is to increase the number of students from these populations obtaining the PhD. The intent of the program is to honor the high standards of achievement demonstrated by Dr. McNair.

The first McNair grant was awarded to Iowa State University in 1995 under the administration of Dr. George A. Jackson who wrote the successful proposal. Dr. Jackson at that time was the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and had already written a successful proposal for another TRiO Program, Student Support Services. Over the years, the McNair Program has served over 200 students.

In 2012, federal funding for the McNair Program ended. After an outpouring of support from current scholars, McNair alums and faculty, an internal proposal was submitted to the Provost Office. In June 2013, the Dean of the Graduate College, Dr. David Holger, agreed to provide financial support to continue the program. Now, officially called Iowa State University McNair, the program continues to serve students each year. Although the program is no longer affiliated with the US Department of Education, it continues to follow the same federal program guidelines of preparing first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students for entry to graduate school and the attainment of the Ph.D.


Who was Ronald E. McNair?

Ronald Erwin McNair was born in Lake City, South Carolina. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from North Carolina A&T State University and earned a PhD in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology by age 26. After MIT, Dr. McNair joined Hughes Research Laboratories as a physicist. Two years later he became an astronaut candidate with NASA. By 1979, he had qualified for an assignment as a mission specialist astronaut on space shuttle flight crews. Dr. McNair died on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.