The program is named for Ronald E. McNair, a NASA mission specialist astronaut and nationally recognized physicist. McNair, who grew up in poverty and segregation, lost his life when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986. The McNair Program was established by Congress in his honor.

Ronald Erwin McNair was born in Lake City, South Carolina on Oct. 21, 1950. McNair came from a low income family. He graduated high school in 1967 as the valedictorian of Carver High School. He received his bachelors degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971. McNair earned his Ph.D. in laser physics in 1976. Dr. McNair would later be granted an honorary doctorate of laws from Noarth Carolina A&T State University, honorary doctorate of science from Morris College, and an honorary doctorate of science from the Univeristy of South Carolina. He was awarded many distinctions including being a Presidential Scholar, a Ford Foundation Fellow, a National Fellowship Fund Fellow, and a NATO fellow. Dr. McNair was the second African American to fly in space when he launched from Kennedy Space Center on February 3, 1984. Two years later he was aboard the U.S. Challenger space shuttle when it exploded on Jan. 28, 1986.

NPR StoryCorps- Astronaut's Brother Carl E. McNair Recalls a Man Who Dreamed Big

NPR StoryCorp on YouTube: Eyes on the Stars

Carl McNair YouTube video: Celbrating Martin Luther King Day with McNair Scholars Program at MSU-Bozeman January 21, 2014

The two-year program is targeted at students underrepresented in graduate schools. Specifically, those are students who are the first in their families to attend college, are from low-income families or are members of minority groups.

Applicants must be interested in research and scholarly activities and want to go on to earn an advanced degree. In return, the student will receive financial and academic support and mentoring.

This is the only program in Montana to encourage bright college students in underrepresented populations to earn doctoral degrees. The program will support them as they earn undergraduate degrees, help them enroll in graduate programs and will track their progress as they complete an advanced degree. Students accepted to the program will be eligible for aid, including a tuition waiver for summer project or research, and a stipend. Sophomores and juniors will be selected from any discipline.

Visit the McNair National Website

Learn more about the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program and other TRIO Programs-

TRiO website