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Southern Oregon University


The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program was established in 1989 and the grant funds are administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Funds are awarded to institutions of higher education to prepare eligible participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. Participants are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have demonstrated strong academic potential. Institutions work closely with participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements. Institutions encourage participants to enroll in graduate programs and then track their progress through to the successful completion of advanced degrees. The goal is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society. In October 2003 Southern Oregon University received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to offer this program.

About the Program

The SOU Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is one of the TRIO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is one of only 158 McNair programs in the United States. The SOU McNair Program is specifically designed to ensure that the student Scholars complete their Bachelor degrees, enroll in graduate school, and have the knowledge, skills, and background preparation that are required to successfully complete a doctoral (Ph.D.) program.

The program offers eligible undergraduate students assistance in preparing for application and entrance into a graduate program within their field of study. The program offers multiple educational opportunities coordinated with the student's program of study, including working with an individual Faculty Mentor from the student's major department. Students attend seminars covering topics such as selection of graduate programs, finding funding, doing well on the Graduate Record Examination, and thriving in graduate school. There are opportunities for students to design and engage in research and attend professional meetings in their disciplines. These McNair Program experiences are designed to enhance the participants' academic experience, helping them to prepare for success within their future doctoral degree programs.

Dr. Ronald E. McNair


The Ronald E. McNair program is named after Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986. He was born on October 21, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina and graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he graduated magna cum laude from the North Carolina A&T State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. He then enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in 1976, at the age of 26, he earned his Ph.D. degree in Laser Physics. Dr. McNair soon became a recognized expert in Laser Physics while working as a Physicist with Hughes Research Laboratory. He was selected by NASA for the space shuttle program in 1978, and was a Mission Specialist aboard the 1984 flight of the shuttle Challenger. A sixth degree black belt Karate instructor and a performing jazz saxophonist, he also enjoyed running, boxing, football, playing cards, and cooking. He was survived by a wife and two children. After his death in the Challenger explosion in 1986, members of Congress provided funding for The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program to encourage students from low-income, first-generation college backgrounds, or who are students from groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate education (Hispanics, African Americans, or Native Americans) to continue to a doctoral degree. Ronald E. McNair "represents an outstanding role model of achievement," said the South Carolina delegation to Congress. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by Dr. McNair's life.


More on Dr. Ronald E. McNair.


Benefits of Pursuing a Ph.D.

1. A Ph.D. certifies recipients for careers in the research community and Higher education.
2. Develops a strong foundation for career success and mobility.
3. Lower unemployment rate for those who have a Ph.D.
4. Higher Lifetime earnings (Ph.D. = $ 3.4 million estimated lifetime earnings!)


"Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on
how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them.

You're eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky."
-  Dr. Ronald E. McNair


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The Southern Oregon University Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is funded 100% by a $231,000 annual grant from the U.S. Department of Education