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TRIO McNair Scholars Program

Trio Mcnair Scholars - 2023 Cohort

The Pitt TRIO McNair Scholars Program, a grant funded program from the U.S. Department of Education, provides a rich diversity of structured educational experiences that are designed to motivate, prepare, and support students in their efforts to pursue postbaccalaureate degrees. McNair Scholars are either first-generation students with limited-incomes or are students who are members of a group that is underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential.

Through training, a supportive environment, and educational experiences, the program will strengthen academic skills, cultivate scholarly pursuit, and build a foundation for success in graduate school.

McNair Scholars focus on the end goal of attaining a PhD or EdD. As such, students seeking professional degrees (ex. MD, JD, DPT, PharmD) are not eligible to be McNair Scholars. For these and other students, the Friends of McNair Program is the best option to find some assistance in entering these programs.

About Ronald E. McNair

The program is named for Dr. Ronald E. McNair, an astronaut and physicist with NASA. Dr. McNair was selected as one of thirty-five applicants from a pool of ten thousand for the NASA astronaut program in 1978. Unfortunately, Dr. McNair was one of those lost during the launch of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Dr. McNair was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004, along with all crew members lost in the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Dr. McNair achieved his doctorate in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and later received other honorary doctorates in addition to many fellowships and awards.

In the summer of 1959, when he was a child, Dr. McNair refused to leave the segregated Lake City Public Library without being allowed to check out his books. After the police and his mother were called, he was allowed to borrow books from the library. Later, the building that housed the library at the time is was named after him.

Find out more about the story:

Our program was named for Dr. McNair both in honor of his many achievements, but also for the fact that he championed education, equal access, and actively worked against societal pressures that may have prevented him and others, like all of you, from attaining degrees.

What does the McNair program do?

Our program supports students just like all of you from their undergraduate education all the way through to their attainment of a PhD. During your undergraduate career, we assist in preparing you for graduate study, research, career pathways after school, and so much more. The McNair program’s ultimate goal is for you to be prepared to enter graduate study and attain your degree.

Program Objectives

OBJECTIVE 1: RESEARCH OR SCHOLARLY ACTIVITY - McNair Scholars will have completed appropriate research or scholarly activities during the McNair Program academic year

OBJECTIVE 2: ENROLLMENT IN A GRADUATE PROGRAM - McNair Scholars will be accepted to and enrolled in a postbaccalaureate program of study by the fall term of the academic year after they graduate.

OBJECTIVE 3: CONTINUED ENROLLMENT IN GRADUATE STUDY - First year graduate students will continue to be enrolled in graduate school at the beginning of the fall term of the next academic year.

OBJECTIVE 4: DOCTORAL DEGREE ATTAINMENT - McNair Scholars will attain a doctoral degree within ten (10) years of the attainment of the bachelor’s degree.

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Pitt students interested in applying to the McNair Scholars Program must meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate interest in obtaining a PhD or EdD degree.
  • Qualify as either:
    • a first-generation college student and/or
    • a low-income college student as defined by the U.S. Department of Education and/or
    • be a member of a group that is underrepresented in graduate education
  • Have a 2.75 minimum cumulative Pitt GPA by the end of the semester when applying.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident.
  • Be enrolled at Pitt during the semester when applying.

The program is open to all majors/disciplines.

Application Steps & Requirements

Step 1

Review the eligibility requirements for the McNair Scholars Program.

Step 2

Fill out our intake form.

Step 3

Gather your application materials:

  • Tax Returns
    • You will need to utilize your or your family's tax return to answer the financial questions.
    • Applicants that are selected as a finalist and invited to interview must submit their previous year's tax return and/or their FAFSA Student Aid Report to the McNair Team before their interview.
  • One Letter of Recommendation (from faculty member)
    • Please instruct the faculty member to email the letter of recommendation directly to Natasha Williams, Academic Coordinator of the TRIO McNair Program at


Email Natasha Williams 
Academic Coordinator, TRIO McNair Scholars Program