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Benefits of the McNair Scholars Program

About McNair

With programs located at over 180 institutions across the United States, the McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO Initiative that seeks to promote equal representation in education at the post-baccalaureate level.

As part of the Honors college, ACU’s McNair Scholars Program equips qualified students for graduate study through involvement in undergraduate research, conference presentation experiences, and other scholarly activities.

Student Spotlight Feature

“McNair was the beginning of my transformation into a professional that could add value to the world through novel ideas and learning. My McNair research project ignited a passion for older adults’ balance improvement, a passion which stayed with me throughout my doctorate until today—where I serve as VP of Clinical for NYMBL Science. That research project provided the foundational knowledge that led me to design and implement the world’s first digital balance improvement program for older adults. I am proud to say that this program has saved over $19 million in healthcare costs and saved the lives of hundreds of older adults.”

-Nathan Estrada, PhD (’22)

Dr. Ronald E. McNair

Born 1950 in a segregated, low-income community in Lake City, S.C., Dr. Ronald E. McNair overcame his circumstances to earn a Ph.D. in laser physics from MIT at the age of 26, eventually becoming a recognized expert in his field. As the second African American to fly in space, Dr. McNair spent his final moments as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated Challenger, still rocketing towards exploration and discovery.

In his honor, Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which seeks to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by low-income, first-generation students and students from underrepresented groups.

Leading a Life Like McNair

While working as a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratory, Dr. McNair soon became a recognized expert in laser physics. His many distinctions include being a Presidential Scholar (1971-74), a Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-74), a National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75), and a NATO Fellow (1975). He was also a sixth degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist. Because of his many accomplishments, he was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978. His first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center on February 3, 1984. Dr. Ronald E. McNair was the second African American to fly in space.


Frequently Asked Questions and Resources


  • $2,800 stipend for a ten-week Summer Research Internship
  • One-on-one work with a faculty mentor
  • Help in securing admission to the graduate program of your choice
  • Improved study and test-taking skills
  • Counseling: academic, personal, career, and financial
  • Conference presentation experience
  • Three credit hours in advanced research courses
  • GRE preparation

Positions in the McNair Scholars Program are offered on a competitive basis.  A committee comprised of Program faculty and staff will interview eligible applicants and select participants based on their potential for pursuing doctoral studies.

All students who participate in the ACU McNair Scholars Program must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Have and maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average
  • Have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
  • Meet federal low-income guidelines and be in the first generation in your family to complete a bachelor’s degree; and/or be a member of a group that is defined by the U. S. Department of Education as underrepresented in graduate education (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander)

McNair Scholars Resources for Current Students

Zotero is a computer-based citation manager for collecting, organizing, and sharing research sources.

Anki is a simple and powerful digital flashcard program designed to make studying information easier and more efficient. Here are some important links:

The attached document lists the graduate programs that offer McNair Scholars application fee waivers. Some of the schools also offer funding specifically for McNair Scholars, so be sure to read all the details provided.

McNair Scholars Fee Waiver List

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If you are interested in participating in the McNair Scholars Program, please fill out the respective application forms and someone will be in contact with you.

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at

Zellner Hall, Room 130
ACU Box 29205
Abilene, TX 79699-9205
Office: 325-674-2862