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Southern Oregon University


The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program was established in 1989, and is a Federal TRIO Program funded at select institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education.  The McNair Program is designed to prepare eligible undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.  McNair Scholars are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group traditionally underrepresented (Hispanic/Latino; Black/African American; American Indian/Native American; Alaskan Native; Native Hawaiian; Pacific Islander) in graduate education that have demonstrated strong academic potential.  Institutions work closely with participants as they complete their undergraduate requirements, encourage participants to enroll in graduate programs, and then track their progress to the successful completion of advanced degrees.  The goal of the McNair Program is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from disadvantaged segments of society.  In October 2003, Southern Oregon University received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and became one of 151 McNair Programs in the United States. 

About the Program

The SOU McNair Program is specifically designed to ensure that Scholars complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in a graduate program, and have the knowledge, skills, and background preparation that are required to successfully complete a 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, and presents multiple educational opportunities coordinated with the scholar’s program of study, including working with an individual faculty mentor from the scholar’s major department.  Scholars attend seminars covering topics such as selection of graduate programs, acquiring funding, doing well on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and thriving in graduate school.  There are also opportunities for scholars to design and engage in research and attend professional meetings in their discipline.  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 McNair Program is named after Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, who died in the Challenger Explosion in 1986. McNair 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 the 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 is survived by his 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 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