Wellesley Awarded $1 Million Grant from the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program

November 14, 2017
student presents a science poster session

Wellesley has received a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The $1.133 million grant will span the next five years for 28 students in their junior and senior years who are studying in STEM fields.

As the only women’s college to currently offer McNair fellowships, Wellesley plays a critical role in advancing STEM education for women from underrepresented groups. The McNair grant will fund tools and experiences to help the scholars pursue graduate studies and, importantly, prepare them to complete doctoral work. This will include support for developing research and academic skills. For example, as rising juniors and seniors, McNair scholars will receive funding to enroll in Wellesley’s nine-week Science Center summer research program. The McNair scholarships will also fund conference attendance and individual research projects.

The program offers more than just financial support, however. McNair scholars will benefit from faculty mentorship and guidance that will be critical to helping them navigate the academic and postgraduate landscapes. They will attend workshops and events (led by faculty, alumnae, and others) that explore academic careers and that address the demands and satisfactions of scholarly research. Also, Wellesley McNair scholars join a national network of thousands of current McNair scholars and McNair alums, becoming members of a group of talented scholars.

Wellesley's McNair scholars will receive assistance with the entire graduate school application process, from visits to prospective schools, to help with application and interviews, to access to workshops focused on academic and social success provided by alumnae in their field.

As it does for all students, Career Education will provide McNair scholars with individualized mentoring and career exploration guidance, helping them build diverse support networks. They will also sponsor a required GRE preparation experience.

Grant-funded staff will provide academic and professional development support for the McNair scholars as well as for other students who receive grant-based fellowships; this support will include campus workshops in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

McNair scholars will be drawn from Wellesley’s Sophomore Early Research Program, Summer Science Research Program, Wintersession Biochemistry Research Week, and Science Apprenticeship Program, among others. Students will also be recruited through our STEM Posse in partnership with the Posse Foundation.

The program is named for the astronaut Dr. Ronald Ervin McNair. An innovative physicist, researcher, and NASA mission specialist recognized for his work in the field of laser physics, McNair received his Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

In 1978, McNair was one of 35 candidates selected from a pool of more than 8,000 applicants for the NASA astronaut program. He was a mission specialist aboard Challenger in February 1984, becoming the second African American to fly in space. On January 28, 1986, McNair was a crew member on his second Challenger mission; the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.