McNair Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions about Federally Funded TRIO Programs and the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program 

What are Federal TRIO programs?

Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) are Federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.  TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs.  

Are there other TRIO programs on the Iowa State University campus?

Yes. Including McNair, there are three other federally funded TRIO programs on the Iowa State campus.  They are Student Support Services, Upward Bound, and Talent Search.

Who is Ronald E. McNair?

Dr. Ronald E. McNair was a physicist who earned a PhD at MIT at the age of 26.  He was the only African American astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger and the second African American to fly in space when it tragically went down in 1986.  

What’s the goal of the McNair Program?

The overall goal of the McNair Program is to prepare first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students for entry to graduate school and the attainment of the PhD.

How many Iowa State students does the McNair Program serve each year?

The Iowa State McNair Program serves 30-35 students each year.

Does McNair only serve underrepresented students?

No. McNair primarily serves first-generation students who are also low-income. 

Why is McNair Program at Iowa State situated in the Graduate College instead of in Student Affairs?

The first successful McNair grant was written in 1995 by a former assistant dean of the Graduate College, Dr. George A. Jackson.  The program has remained in the Graduate College since that time.

Is there a minimum GPA requirement to participate?

No. We do not select students based on GPA.  We consider the entire submitted application as well as the interview in our evaluation of each candidate thereby allowing students to communicate their interest in the program and their commitment to continuing their education on to graduate school.

Are there other McNair Programs in the state of Iowa?

No. Iowa State has the only McNair Program in the state of Iowa.

How many McNair Programs are there across the country?

Currently, there are 187 McNair Programs in the country.


FAQs for Prospective Scholars 

Is McNair a scholarship program? Why are students in the programs called Scholars?

McNair is not a scholarship program, but a graduate school preparation program.  The national McNair community adopted the term “Scholar” when the first programs were approved by the US Department of Education in 1989.  

In what year (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) should I apply for the McNair Program? 

Ideally, students should apply to McNair in spring of their sophomore year for admission to the program the following fall term.

Can I apply for admission in a spring term?

No.  Students are only admitted to McNair to start in the fall semester.

Can I apply if I am transferring into Iowa State in the fall?

Yes.  Students who are transferring to Iowa State from a community college or other college or university are eligible to apply to McNair. 

Can I still apply if: 

        a.    I do not have research experience?  

             Yes.  Research experience is not required.

        b.    I do not have a faculty mentor confirmed yet? 

             Yes. You need not have a faculty mentor identified or confirmed.

        c.     I plan to study abroad in the fall?  

             No.  You must be a full-time student on campus for your first year in McNair.

Do I choose a faculty mentor or will the program choose someone for me?

You will be responsible for choosing your faculty mentor and organizing a meeting between a member of the program staff, you and your prospective faculty mentor. 

If I am currently working on research with a professor, will I need to get a new mentor once accepted in the program?

No.  If you are already working with a professor on research, you may continue working with that professor if they agree to officially serve as your McNair faculty mentor.

What are other ways McNair might support me as a program Scholar?

McNair will also support you in writing and revising the curriculum vitae and resume, personal statements for REUs and internships, and the statement of purpose for your graduate school application.

What activities can I expect to be involved in?

Research, teamwork and collaboration, and building community all contribute to the success of our McNair Scholars and core values of the McNair Program at Iowa State. These activities are built into the program schedule. Scholars are expected to participate in program events and activities which include attending and presenting at a local and national conference, working with other Scholars on a class research project, and attending a fall brunch, mid-semester recess, and an end of the year closing ceremony. 

How many students do you admit each year?

The Iowa State McNair Program admits from 10-15 new students each fall.


FAQs for Current Scholars

I have been accepted into the McNair Program; now what?  

Your offer email will state all that you need to do to get started as a McNair Scholar.

When and where will I present my research?  

Scholars are prepared to present their faculty mentored research projects in the fall or spring of their second year in the program at a national McNair conference.

When will I begin learning about graduate school?  

The graduate school planning component begins at the end of the first year and continues through the second year.

What financial assistance can McNair help for me?  

All McNair Scholars receive a research stipend at the end of each semester in the program.

How do I choose a Faculty or Graduate Student Mentor?

You will be responsible for choosing your faculty mentor and organizing a meeting between a member of the program staff, you and your prospective faculty mentor. 


FAQs for Prospective Mentors

How do I become a faculty mentor?

Faculty mentors are chosen by our Scholars based on their research interests. This typically occurs during the fall of their first year in the program. We encourage our Scholars to research faculty, communicate, and confirm willingness to mentor on their own, similar to the major professor establishment process in graduate school. 

What are the requirements of a faculty mentor in McNair?

Faculty are required to provide an enriching research experience for the Scholar, which can include (but is not limited to): an independent project or portion of already existing research, mentorship in the research and graduate application processes, and assistance with development of research presentations and graduate application materials.

What is the role of a faculty mentor in McNair?

The role of a McNair faculty mentor is to expose the Scholar to research, while assisting and mentoring their development of personal, and professional skills that will prepare the Scholar for the transition to graduate study. 

How is mentoring a McNair Scholar different than working with an undergraduate researcher?

McNair Scholars are expected to develop as budding graduate students during their time in the program, leading to the attainment of a Ph.d. The McNair Program expects they are able to experience developmental mentoring that ensures growth in their confidence, credibility, and competence as researchers and future graduate students. 

How long are faculty mentors expected to mentor Scholars?

Mentors are expected to stay with the Scholar for the duration of their time in the program (typically two years). Depending on the research, the relationship may not always include active research work. As the Scholar progresses through the program, their needs will change depending on their graduation timeline. 


FAQs for Current Faculty Mentors

What deliverables am I expected to help my Scholar produce?

Faculty mentors are expected to assist their Scholar with: preparing a poster to present each year they are in the program, preparing an oral presentation their second year in the program, finalizing graduate application items as they begin applying for graduate programs. 

Is there financial assistance for compensation for mentoring a Scholar?

The McNair Program does not provide financial assistance to mentors to provide compensation for Scholar’s work. 

My Scholar completed their project in the first year. Can I move them to a new project?

We encourage our Scholars to get as much research and diverse experiences as possible, so that they can continue to gain valuable skills in preparation for their graduate study. 

Are funds available for my Scholar to attend a professional conference?

The McNair Program is able to provide professional development funds for Scholars. This funding is provided on a case-by-case basis, pending funding availability. Scholars can request funding here.(link to the google form?)

What research related campus events/activities are McNair Scholars required to participate in? 

McNair Scholars are required to participate in all McNair Program research activities. In the second year of the program, Scholars are expected to orally present at the campus-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium and Creative Expression.


FAQS for Graduate Student Mentors

How do I become a Graduate Student Mentor?

Each year, Graduate Student Mentors are chosen by Scholars or are asked by the program to volunteer to be matched with a Scholar. If you are interested in becoming a Graduate Student Mentor, please complete the interest survey (link to the Qualtrics).

What are the expectations of a Graduate Student Mentor?

Graduate Student Mentors are required to meet with the McNair Scholar a minimum of one time per month. During their mentorship, they are expected to support and assist McNair Scholars, as they prepare to navigate graduate school culture. 

How much time and effort will being a mentor require?

Graduate mentors are required to meet with their Scholar one time per month. The amount of time spent with the mentee will be determined by the type of relationship that is developed.

What are sample activities or things I could do with my Scholar?

Activities that Graduate Mentors and Scholar mentees engage in are wide-ranging. From having a discussion to allowing the mentee to attending a course the Mentor is teaching, many opportunities can come from interests of the Scholar or things that the Mentor believes are important to understand before becoming a graduate student. 

Does my Scholar have to be in the same major as me?

No. Graduate Student Mentors and Scholar mentees can come from different backgrounds. It is most important that they are exposed to life as a graduate student, no matter what field.