CWU News

CWU's McNair Scholars Program Receives $1.1 Million

Increasing access and diversity in graduate degree programs is the legacy of Ronald McNair, one of the astronauts who perished in the Challenger explosion in 1986.

To that end, the McNair Scholars program was developed. Central Washington University, a  recipient of McNair Scholar funding since 1991, received $1,161,325 from the US Department of Education for the CWU McNair Scholars Program. The five-year program will receive $232,265 each year. The program is administered by the School of Graduate Studies and Research and CWU's Lucinda Carnell, biological sciences, will continue as program director.

"We are grateful to the Department of Education for the opportunity to continue being a part of the McNair program, which has allowed our students to obtain doctoral degrees and faculty positions in academia," said Carnell. 

CWU is one of the original McNair institutions in the country, and is among the first in Washington State. The university is funded to serve 27 new and continuing students for each project year.

The McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program
The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded at 185 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the US Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.

McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential. The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.

About Ronald E. McNair
Ronald Erwin McNair was born in Lake City, South Carolina, on October 21, 1950. In 1967, he graduated valedictorian from Carver High School and went on to North Carolina A&T State University where he graduated magna cum laude in physics.

He earned his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the age of 26.Dr. McNair was an expert in laser physics at the Hughes Research Laboratory and in 1978, was selected for participation in NASA's space shuttle program, becoming the second African American astronaut in US history. He served as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger and died along with the rest of the Challenger crew when the space shuttle exploded nine miles above the Atlantic on January 28, 1986.

He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. After his death, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. Their goal was to encourage low-income and first-generation college students, and students from historically underrepresented ethnic groups to expand their educational opportunities by enrolling in a PhD program and ultimately pursue an academic career. This program is dedicated to the high standards of achievement inspired by McNair’s life.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,