About the UNL McNair Scholars Program

Established in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education and named for astronaut-physicist and Challenger space shuttle crew member Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D., the McNair Scholars Program aims to increase numbers of underrepresented students in doctoral programs.


The UNL McNair Scholars Program is structured to:

  • support talented, highly motivated students as they strive to achieve their educational goals
  • introduce scholars to the many opportunities an academic life offers
  • provide scholars with a foundation for graduate school
  • create a "pipeline" of talented, dedicated, and prepared future researchers and faculty

Through the UNL McNair Scholars Program, scholars receive an overview of higher education, discuss strategies for surviving and thriving in graduate school, and focus on developing important research and writing skills that will help them succeed at the graduate level.

Who qualifies

Undergraduate students who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply to the UNL McNair Scholars Program:

  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Full-time student at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Freshman, sophomore or junior with a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 or above
  • Either a first-generation college student with a maximum income level established by the U.S. Department of Education OR a member of a group underrepresented in graduate education (African American, Hispanic, Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiians, and Native American Pacific Islanders)

What McNair Scholars do

  • Engage in research. Following their first year in the program, students participate in the McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE) during which they conduct research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor. By completing quality research projects, students receive a realistic picture of graduate school scholarship, while learning the skills needed to succeed in doctoral programs.
  • Develop and deliver professional research presentations. McNair Scholars present their research at selected research symposia. In addition, students have the opportunity to travel to professional conferences and to network with faculty and graduate students through membership in professional organizations.
  • Attend graduate school preparation seminars. Scholars attend graduate school seminars and workshops focused on specific topics related to the graduate school application process, including how to identify graduate programs that "fit" their needs and interests, preparing for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and how to navigate graduate school.

What McNair Scholars receive

  • McNair stipend. Scholars receive an educational incentive of $2,800, along with room and board during the McNair Summer Research Experience.
  • Mentoring. Each student selects a faculty mentor who provides guidance throughout the undergraduate research process and advice during the graduate school application process. Mentors serve as role models and are an essential resource for their McNair Scholar.
  • Academic development. Individual academic counseling from program staff and a faculty mentor enables students to maximize their undergraduate program and to prepare for graduate study.
  • Supportive scholarly, social, and cultural environment. Scholars engage with others through monthly seminars, group meetings, and various cultural events.
  • Funding for graduate school campus visits. Scholars may receive funding to travel to up to two graduate schools to meet with graduate faculty and to learn more about the department and institution in order to make their final graduate school decision.