Established on the campus in 1990, the UIUC TRIO Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program (McNair Scholars Program) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The program provides research, mentoring, advising, and graduate school preparation opportunities for eligible sophomores, juniors and seniors to promote their academic excellence and pursuit of a PhD. TRIO McNair Scholars engage in rigorous research with faculty mentors, attend relevant workshops and seminars, and commit to preparing themselves for doctoral studies following the completion of undergraduate studies.

with world-class Faculty Mentors
for success at Illinois and beyond
in a Ph.D. program with financial support


We envision a program in which all McNair Scholars achieve academic and personal success so they can become the next generation of scientists, researchers, and professors. We seek to empower scholars to believe that the vision they have for the world can be realized through their research and service efforts in the academy.


The mission of the program is to prepare participants to be the next generation of scientists, researchers, and professors through rigorous graduate school preparation, academic development, and research training.


  • Support and encourage a high level of educational achievement for the remainder of the scholars’ undergraduate career as well as the graduate career.
  • Introduce and develop scholars’ knowledge of the research process and various components of the process as related to their fields.
  • Help scholars develop mentoring/advising relationships with university faculty and develop their network outside of the University of Illinois.
  • Give scholars opportunities to develop their professional portfolios.
  • Provide individualized attention to scholars to help them become competitive applicants for doctoral graduate programs across the U.S. and around the world.

Examples of services are:

  • Academic and Professional Development Workshops: Throughout the academic year, staff members assist scholars with graduate school preparation, GRE test-taking strategies, obtaining fellowships and scholarships, and other pertinent tasks to ensure the students’ success.
  • Research Internships: The capstone research experience for preparing students for research, graduate school, and doctoral study. TRIO McNair Scholars are matched with a research mentor within their research fields of interest who guide scholars’ research projects and prepare them for more advanced study. The scholars enrolled in the internship receive college credit and work approximately 10 hours each week throughout the academic year on their research projects. Students also attend academic development seminars and/or colloquia each month. Scholars are eligible to receive up to $2800 research stipend per year at the completion of research internship. Please Note: The McNair stipend will be processed through the Office of Student Financial Aid and will be considered a part of the scholar's total aid package for the academic year.
  • Conferences & Campus Visits: TRIO McNair Scholars present their research at various annual conferences throughout the country. At past conferences, scholars have won top prizes for their presentations. Scholars also can visit top-ranked research institutions. Representatives from graduate schools provide seminars on campus resources, research opportunities, admissions and financial aid. Furthermore, scholars receive consideration for application fee waivers from graduate school programs across the country. 
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McNair Eligibility

  • Citizen or Permanent Resident of the United States.
  • Currently enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student at the U of I.
  • Must have completed freshman year.
  • Undergraduate cumulative grade point average of at least 2.85.
  • Be a member of a group underrepresented in graduate education (American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander).
  • Additionally, preference will be given to first-generation university students who also meet the income level established by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Commitment to a career path in which a doctorate is required.
  • Willingness to participate in all McNair sponsored activities/events.
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Learning Outcomes

Given the legislative intent of the TRIO McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement program, as a result of their McNair experiences, participants will be able to:

  • Distinguish between undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level education;
  • Research and identify potential graduate programs in their field of study;
  • Research and identify potential sources of financial support for graduate study;
  • Develop a cogent research design;
  • Describe and present their research at national conferences and to varied audiences;
  • Describe and explain pathways and obstacles to the professoriate.

"Before you can make a dream come true, you must first have one."


Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair, the second African American to fly in space, was born October 12, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina. He graduated as valedictorian of Lake City's Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he received his bachelor's degree in physics magna cum laude from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, and he earned a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976.

Dr. McNair was nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics. Selected for the astronaut program in 1978, he was the recipient of many honorary degrees, fellowships and commendations. He also was a sixth-degree black belt in karate and an accomplished saxophonist. He was married to Cheryl Moore and had two children, Reginald Erwin and Joy Cheray.

On January 28, 1986, Dr. McNair and six other astronauts died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. The McNair Scholars program is named in his honor and memory.

McNair Scholars Contact Information

Interested in applying or need more information about TRIO McNair Scholars? We would love to talk about your future, graduate school, and McNair!