Michigan Tech Receives $1.3 Million McNair Grant

A student works in the Plexus electronics lab at Michigan Tech
A student works in the Plexus electronics lab at Michigan Tech
Michigan Tech has received a $1.3 million grant to fund the McNair Scholars Program.

Michigan Technological University has received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help students from underrepresented groups earn undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate programs and obtain doctorates.

The five-year grant — $261,888 each year — funds the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at Michigan Tech, also known as the McNair Scholars Program. McNair scholars receive summer research experience with faculty mentors, opportunities to present at research conferences, assistance with preparing for graduate school and professional development toward completing a Ph.D.

“I am excited about this opportunity for the MTU community — not only for its scholars, but also for the impact such a program will have on our research goals,” said Wayne Gersie, McNair Scholars Program principal investigator and Michigan Tech vice president for diversity and inclusion. “As we aspire to continuously enhance our role and growth as a premier technological research university, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program better positions us toward achieving our goals. We know that developing a diverse group of future scholars will augment innovation and scholarship by bringing additional perspectives to problem-solving.”

Two full-time program administrators will serve at least 25 McNair scholars at a time, including some students from partner community colleges, such as the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC) and Bay Mills Community College.

“KBOCC is excited to be working with Michigan Tech on the McNair Scholars Program,” said Lori Sherman, KBOCC president. “The opportunities and resources provided by the McNair Scholars Program, particularly the valuable research internship experiences, will benefit KBOCC students throughout their educational journey and enable them to continue their personal and professional development.”

The McNair Scholars Program is a federal TRIO program funded at 151 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico. 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 traditionally underrepresented in graduate education, and have demonstrated strong academic potential. 

“As a first generation, low-income Latino student, I would not be nearly done with my Ph.D. if I were not a McNair scholar,” said Gabriel Escobedo, director of Michigan Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “I was lost as an undergraduate and unsure if I wanted to finish, but the thought of doing research that I was interested in lit a fire in me that still burns today.” 

“After I did my summer research, the program helped me present at a McNair conference, publish my research, visit and apply to graduate schools, and get my honors degree,” Escobedo said. “I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the McNair Scholars Program at Michigan Tech, where I can give the same opportunity and resources I was once given and help those who were in my shoes not so long ago achieve their dreams and get their Ph.D.”

Students will be able to get more information during one of the program’s application days in early January. After completing a short informational interview, eligible students will be invited to apply. Participants are expected to be selected by March.

The award honors Ronald E. McNair, the second African American to embark on a space mission. The NASA astronaut and physicist was one of seven crew members killed in the failed Space Shuttle Challenger launch in 1986. In the wake of the tragedy, Congress approved funding for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program 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 Ph.D. program and pursuing an academic career.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.