Federal grant renewed for McNair program, applications open for fall cohort

The Graduate College received a continuing, five-year (2022-27), $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program's efforts to prepare first-generation, low-income or underrepresented juniors and seniors for graduate study, with the goal of increasing diversity among doctoral graduates. The program has been continually funded at Iowa State since 1995.

McNair program staff are recruiting undergraduates for this fall's cohort. Students must apply, but faculty and staff are encouraged to refer qualifying sophomores to the program. Applications are due March 1 or when all the scholar slots are filled, said Ashley Garrin, program director since January 2022 and a member of Iowa State's 2005 McNair cohort. Former director Thelma Harding is serving as coordinator of graduate enrollment management for the college.

"We are excited about continuing the legacy of the McNair program for another five years,” Garrin said. "The community we are able to create through the grant ultimately leads to changing the landscape of graduate education and individuals who hold graduate degrees. The program provides access to and preparation for success at that next level."

Iowa State's McNair grant covers staff salaries and serves around 30 scholars annually, accepting 15-16 juniors each fall. In 28 years, more than 500 Iowa State students have participated in the program.

Garrin said McNair scholars participate in two hours of seminars per week. Year one focuses on research methods and research. Year two focuses on choosing and applying to graduate schools and transitioning successfully once they begin. In addition to that coursework, participants receive a research training stipend and financial support to present faculty mentored research projects at national or regional conferences. For example, in April, 10 McNair scholars will be in the ISU contingent at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

McNair is one of eight federally funded TRIO programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Iowa State receives grant funding for three others: Education Talent Search, Upward Bound and Student Support Services.

The McNair program is named for the physicist and mission specialist astronaut who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986.