CU Boulder Awarded $1.1 Million To Support Underrepresented Doctoral Students

Dr. Ronald McNair died on January 28, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, also taking the lives of the spacecraft commander, Mr. F.R. Scobee, the pilot, Commander M.J. Smith (USN), mission specialists, Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Onizuka (USAF), and Dr. J.A. Resnik, and two civilian payload specialists, Mr. G.B. Jarvis and Mrs. S. C. McAuliffe.

September 29, 2017 – The University of Colorado Boulder has been awarded a five-year $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the McNair Scholars Program to help increase the number of doctoral degrees earned by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The new McNair grant focuses on first-generation and low-income students or other underrepresented students who demonstrate strong academic potential.

“By helping us to expand access to graduate education, this important grant supports CU Boulder’s inclusive excellence initiatives and aids in our mission to shape tomorrow’s leaders,” said the grant’s principal investigator Ann Schmiesing, dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for Graduate Affairs. “For example, the McNair grant provides research opportunities to aspiring graduate students by pairing them with faculty who mentor the next generation of scholars, researchers, teachers, and innovators.”

The McNair Scholars Program is part of the education department’s TRiO effort, a series of federally-funded programs established by Congress in 1965 to help first-generation, low-income Americans enter college, graduate and go on to make contributions in their chosen fields.

“With the addition of the McNair Scholars Program to our complement of TriO programs, CU Boulder is now able to outreach into underserved communities, support low-income and first-generation college students and prepare undergraduates from these backgrounds for advanced study,” said Robert Boswell, vice chancellor for diversity, equity and community engagement.

CU Boulder now hosts three TRiO programs – Upward Bound, Students Support Services and McNair Scholars – that serve 314 students annually. The pipeline runs from pre-collegiate to post-baccalaureate.

The McNair Scholars Program improves student success outcomes by providing a number of professional development activities for participants. These activities include opportunities for research or other scholarly work; summer internships; seminars and other educational activities designed to prepare students for doctoral study.

The McNair Scholars Program was established in 1986 and named in honor of American physicist and NASA astronaut Ronald McNair, who perished in NASA’s space shuttle Challenger accident that year. According to the Council for Opportunity in Education, 161 McNair Scholars Program proposals were funded in 2017 in rank order of scores. CU Boulder achieved a perfect score, said Schmiesing, and received a congratulatory note from Carl McNair, Ronald McNair’s brother.