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McNair Scholars Program

Services and support to help you get a Ph.D.

The McNair Scholars Program helps you get into a Ph.D. program by providing impressive research experiences, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) training, and more.


Program eligibility

To be eligible for the program, you must be either:

  • A student of any ethnicity who is both a first-generation college student (neither parent has received a college degree — they can have received an associate's degree and/or some college) and considered low income according to federal guidelines (click here to access TRIO income guidelines).


  • A member of an underrepresented group (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander) in graduate education.

In addition, you must be:

  • Seriously interested in preparing for graduate education and attaining a research doctorate.
  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Enrolled full-time at Central Michigan University.
  • Maintaining a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8.
  • Able to have completed at least 56 credits before beginning the summer research experience.

    If you are interested in becoming a McNair Scholar, please compete the McNair Prospective Scholar Form.

Application process

Do you want the opportunity to earn your PhD (possibly for free!)? We want to meet you, hear your story and help you find an educational and career path to best fit your needs and interests. If you identify as a first-generation student with financial need and/or as an underrepresented student interested in getting a PhD, make sure you apply!

We look for students who are:

  • Current sophomore or junior at CMU.
  • First-generation student (neither parent has a bachelor's degree or higher).
  • Curious-minded individual.
  • Interested in doing research (or maybe you haven't thought about it yet!).
  • Interested in a career requiring a PhD.

We accept applications for the program in the fall semester each year, typically with an early November deadline.

To request a fee waiver, please complete the McNair Fee Waiver Request Form.

Contact us at 989-774-1364 or at to learn more about the application process.


McNair scholars and their research

McNair scholars conducting research in lab

About Dr. Ronald E. McNair

Dr. Ronald E. McNairIn 1986, in memory of Dr. Ronald E. McNair, the United States Congress established the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, commonly known as the McNair Scholars Program. The program was created to increase educational opportunities to students who are from low-income, first-generation families, and/or those who are from ethnic backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. It is funded through the Department of Education.

Dr. McNair's career as a scholar and astronaut stands as an inspiration to all McNair program participants. Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born on October 12, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. While in junior high school, Dr. McNair was inspired by a teacher who recognized his scientific potential and believed in him. He graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he received his bachelor's degree magna cum laude in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro). Five years later, in 1976, he earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Dr. McNair’s many distinctions include: Presidential Scholar (1971-74), Ford Foundation Fellow (1971-74), National Fellowship Fund Fellow (1974-75), and NATO Fellow (1975).

In 1978, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected Dr. McNair as a candidate for the space shuttle program. After completing a one-year special training and evaluation program, he became qualified for assignment as a mission specialist astronaut.

His first space shuttle mission launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 3, 1984. Two years later, Dr. McNair was selected by NASA to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle. He was killed instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, thirteen seconds after it was launched.

Dr. McNair's career as a scholar and mission specialist astronaut was abruptly ended with his untimely death aboard the U.S. Challenger. His achievements, however, were not limited to academia and those as an astronaut. He was a sixth degree black belt in Karate and an accomplished saxophonist as well. Married to Cheryl Moore, Dr. McNair was a devoted husband and a loving father to their two children, Reginald Ervin and Joy Cheray.

His lifelong commitment to scholarship lives on in the McNair scholars who are selected each year to participate in the many McNair programs across the United States. The McNair Scholars Program at Central Michigan University is dedicated to preserving Dr. McNair's legacy of scholarship and accomplishment.​​​​​​