The McNair Scholars Program Makes a Comeback

A nationally popular program designed to assist first generation and low-income or underrepresented Kean students to apply for Ph. D. programs

Features > The McNair Scholars Program Makes a Comeback
The McNair Scholars Program Makes a Comeback

The purpose of the McNair Scholars Program is to provide an advantage for undergraduate students who are first generation and income eligible to attain doctoral degrees. 

Marcus Van Diver

Between the many academic courses of study chosen by students to take, the variety of choices regarding their interests are vast. Whether a student is enthralled in the arts or is more business-focused, Kean University is willing to accommodate any student's scholarly wants and needs. 

At times, however, a considerably high amount of those in academia struggle to maintain the financial stability necessary to attend a four-year college or university. Student loans, the cost of books, and other expenses can impact one's pockets tremendously.

Fortunately, programs such as financial aid, and different scholarships assist college students in the process of attending school, so that they are able to obtain their degree in their desired field.

Furthermore, academic grants funded by the Department of Education, such as the returning McNair Scholars Program, make it a priority to attract and recruit low-income, minority and first-generation students who are interested, preferably in the sciences, to attend graduate school and apply for Ph. D. programs. 

The purpose of the program is to increase the number of doctoral degrees attained by students who are income eligible, or members of groups that are underrepresented in graduate programs. The grant, proposed to Kean once every five years, began in 2007 and took a five-year hiatus after 2012. The program made its return to the science programs at Kean in 2017 and will remain a staple in the academic field until the year 2022, and hopefully will continue to be funded thereafter.  

This program is present in exactly 151 schools across the United States, and Kean University is one of five schools in the state to provide its services to prospective graduate students. 

Wendy Alvarado, the Director of the McNair Scholars Program, took over the role of leadership in the month of November with the desire to entice those wanting to attain higher education.

"Our program offers a lot of benefits for those students. We offer summer research programs, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation for students going to graduate school, we attend workshops and conferences and encourage the members of the program to present their research in two conferences, either at the Kean Research Days here or anywhere else in the nation," Alvarado said. "Whatever benefits we offer is covered by our program, and during the students' senior year, we help them with their personal statements when they are applying to graduate school. Moreover, we offer application fee waivers, so there is no limit to how many schools they can apply to." 

Alvarado states that she will continue to service the students in the program until graduation to ensure their success into graduate programs. Once the students enter graduate programs, Alvarado ensures that they will be tracked until completion of their graduate degree.  

Other benefits include hands-on involvement in research and opportunities for peer and professional presentation, a research stipend of $2,000, tutoring and supplemental instruction, personal coaching and advisement as well as travel funds for research activities from the program itself.

This program was founded as a tribute to the late Ronald E. McNair, Ph. D., one of the first three African Americans selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to enter the astronaut cadre in the January of 1978.  He became the second African American in space in 1984 after boarding the Challenger shuttle and two years later, died on the Challenger with six other passengers in an explosion.

In his memory, members of the United States Congress agreed to provide funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, in the effort to give first-generation, underprivileged and low-income college students to enroll in graduate studies.   

To be eligible for this program, those who are interested must have a desire to enroll in a graduate school program with an intention of completing a doctorate degree. They must also have a cumulative 3.0 grade point average (GPA) when applying. Additionally, those signing up for the program are required to meet first generation and income requirements, or be a member of a group that is underrepresented in education.

"I think that a lot of students do not know the benefits of going into Ph. D. programs in the sciences. As for myself, I was unaware that if a student was in one of the science majors and if they wanted to go to graduate school, they could get into these Ph. D. programs fully funded. I believe, once students come into the program, and they are aware of all the benefits in getting a doctorate degree, it is a done deal," the director of the McNair Science Programs said. "If a student has the desire, eagerness and ability to go to graduate school, and once they get accepted into the program with funding, it is a no-brainer." 

Due to the fact that those who are accepted into the program are McNair Scholars, they have an advantage of being in a top percentile of students getting into graduate programs across the nation. 

"A lot of schools ask on their application if those applying are McNair Scholars, and there are specific scholarships for those scholars. Once they come into the program, and they know what is out there, I think they will be more willing to go," Alvarado said.

To find more information about the program, contact Wendy Alvarado, Director of the McNair Scholars Program at Also, contact her office at Townsend Hall at (908) 737-0270. Lastly, visit the official Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program web page on the Kean website.   

about the author

Marcus Van Diver, Staff Writer

Marcus Van Diver, a senior majoring in communications with a concentration in mass media, has been a Staff Writer for The Cougar’s Byte since October of 2016. He has aspirations of working in the field of sports media and wishes to be a broadcaster, journalist or radio host for any major news corporation. His hobbies include, reading, exercising and playing sports. He is an avid fan of his New York Giants, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Rangers.