four students chatting and laughing

McNair Scholars Program

Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Westminster College McNair Program's response to COVID-19 is following Westminster’s leadership which is informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Salt Lake County Health Department, and the Utah Department of Health. The McNair Program's first consideration is the well-being of students and campus community. Everyone is encouraged to familiarize themselves with Westminster’s COVID-19 webpage and the campus services available to Westminster students.

The McNair Program has provided information to students regarding questions you may have about the program at this time. If you have a question that has not be answered on this page, email the program (

How to Contact the McNair Team and/or Schedule a Meeting:

The McNair team is available to support you and address your questions. To schedule a meeting, email Vanessa ( or Tashelle ( Meetings will then be set up via Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or phone. You can also request an in-person meeting (outside) to discuss anything you need if you’ll be on campus.

What to Do If You're Registered to Take the GRE Soon:

You can find updated information on the GRE website, including information about a new testing option. However, over the past 18 months, many research graduate programs have discontinued their GRE requirement.

Faculty mentors who have questions about working with their McNair scholar(s) should email Vanessa Seals (

McNair Scholars Research Symposium

The McNair Scholars from Westminster College each completed an independent research project with a faculty member during Summer 2020.

Watch the presentations

Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at Westminster College

Preparing academically talented undergraduates today, to change the face of higher education tomorrow.McNair Logo

The McNair Scholars Program is a federally funded effort to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who go on to graduate study. The program is named after Ronald E. McNair, an African-American physicist and NASA astronaut who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986.

The Westminster College McNair Scholars Program draws students from 3 campuses: Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, and College of Southern Idaho. By encouraging and supporting qualified students through undergraduate school and the transition to graduate school, the ultimate goal is to increase faculty diversity in colleges and universities.

mcnair graduates waving their graduation caps and degrees in the air

Biography of Ronald McNair

"Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. You're eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky!"
Ronald E. McNair

Ronald E. McNair was born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. He achieved early success as both a student and an athlete in the segregated public schools he attended. Valedictorian of his high school class, he attended North Carolina A & T State University where in 1971 he received a B.S. degree in physics, magna cum laude. He went on to study physics at MIT, specializing in quantum electronics and laser technology, and completed his PhD in 1977 at the age of 26.

Dr. McNair became a recognized expert in laser physics, and worked for the Hughes Research Laboratories in California. Here, he conducted research on electro-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications. This research led McNair into close contact with the space program; when the opportunity presented itself he applied for astronaut training and was selected in 1978. He was one of the first three African Americans chosen by NASA. As a mission specialist aboard the February 1984 flight of the shuttle Challenger, he became the second African-American in space.

Ronald McNair received many fellowships and commendations; among his achievements were three honorary doctoral degrees. In addition to his stellar academic success, he was a well-rounded person. A leader in track and football in high school, he also became a black belt in Karate, and while in graduate school he offered Karate classes at St. Paul's AME Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an accomplished jazz saxophonist, and a devoted husband and father to Cheryl and their two children.

After his death in the Challenger explosion in January 1986, members of Congress provided funding for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. Dr. McNair set high standards for himself, and dared to make his dreams come true. The program that bears his name is dedicated to the success of low-income/ first-generation college students and students from underrepresented groups who aspire to graduate studies.

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

Program Benefits

  • Be eligible to receive a $2,800 stipend for the summer research project.
  • Establish a relationship with a faculty mentor for ongoing academic advising and assistance developing an academic plan.
  • Establish a relationship with a research mentor for guidance through the research project and an introduction to your academic discipline.
  • Receive support services including academic seminars, individual surveys and assessments, tutoring services as needed, GRE preparation.
  • Opportunities to visit graduate school programs.**
  • Opportunities to attend local, regional, and national conferences to present research.**
  • Receive financial education and counseling including individual financial counseling services, a money management seminar, and a seminar on graduate and doctoral program funding alternatives.
  • Receive personal support services including individualized technology/computer/library assistance, career counseling, academic career planning, and a peer support system.
  • Receive assistance applying to graduate schools.
  • Receive assistance applying for financial aid.
  • Application fee waivers from participating graduate schools.
  • Be eligible for GRE test fee waivers.
  • Free summer tuition at Westminster College.
  • Eligible Westminster McNair Scholars may also receive financial aid packages totaling 100% of tuition.***

** Travel funds are contingent upon program participation and are granted at the discretion of the director.
*** Funds are distributed at the discretion of the Financial Aid office. The McNair Program has no control of these funds.

mcnair graduates jumping air in Richer Commons

Application Information


All scholars must:

  • Be a sophomore, junior, or senior who will graduate in December 2021 or later
  • Have a minimum 3.0 GPA OR significant academic progress in the last 30 credit hours or in your major
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Have a sincere desire to pursue graduate education

You must also qualify as:

  • A low-income, first-generation college student (neither parent has a bachelor's degree) OR a member of a group that is underrepresented in graduate education (Native American, Hispanic/Latinx, African American or Pacific Islander)

Your family's federal tax information will be used to determine low-income status. Dependent students should submit their parent's/s' tax information; independent students should submit their own. Determine whether you are considered a dependent or an independent student according to FAFSA.

Preference is given to students who attend Westminster College, the College of Southern Idaho, and Salt Lake Community College.

How to Apply

If you fulfill these qualifications and wish to apply, download the McNair Scholar application checklist before filling out your online application.

Applications for the 2020-21 academic year are due March 31, 2021. Contact us at if you have any questions or concerns.

Mailing Address:
Westminster College
McNair Scholars Program
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

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*In fiscal year 2019-2020, the Westminster College McNair Scholars Program is funded at approximately $375,684. Of this amount, $265,684 (71%) is an annual grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Westminster College provides the remaining 29% by contributing over $110,000 of support each year.