SOU Ronald E. McNair

Students sought for SOU McNair Scholars Program

SOU faculty members and others are asked to help identify and nominate promising undergraduate students to become part of the legacy of Ronald E. McNair, who stood up for civil rights as a youth before becoming a physicist and astronaut. He died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

SOU’s McNair Scholars Program, which has prepared eligible undergraduate students for post-graduate education since 2003, is seeking students for its 2019 cohort of scholars. Prospective McNair Scholars should be sophomores, juniors or early seniors with academic potential and an interest in attending graduate school.

The SOU program offers one-to-one guidance from faculty mentors as it helps participants complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate school and prepare for doctoral studies. More than a dozen SOU McNair alumni have completed their doctoral programs since the program began 15 years ago.

“When asked how they heard about the McNair Program, the majority of past scholars reported that they were encouraged by SOU faculty or staff members to apply,” said Dee Southard, an associate professor and director of SOU’s McNair program. “I am again asking for help in reaching potential McNair Scholars and connecting them with the resources that the program offers.”

Student participants in the nation’s 187 currently funded McNair programs are considered “targets of recruitment” for graduate admissions officers. They are offered fully-paid visitation opportunities and often given offers of admission that include all-expenses-paid packages with stipends for living expenses.

Seminars on topics pertinent to pre-doctoral students, advising, tutoring, access to a resource library, help with graduate school applications, travel assistance and other resources are available free of charge to participants in SOU’s McNair Scholars Program.

The program is geared toward undergraduate students from underrepresented and disadvantaged segments of society, but those criteria should not be a concern for those recommending students as McNair scholars. Each nominee will be contacted and provided program details. Even those who are not eligible will be directed toward resources that are helpful for all students considering graduate-level studies.

Those wishing to recommend a student for the program should send the student’s name, email address and undergraduate major to Southard at The application packet for students interested in being part of the 2019 cohort is available online. The deadline for submission of completed packets to SOU’s McNair office in Susanne Homes Hall is 3 p.m. on Oct. 31.

The McNair program was initiated in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Education to increase doctoral studies by students from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups. It honors McNair, who received his doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the second African-American to fly in space. SOU’s McNair program serves 28 undergraduate scholars each year.