Ronald McNair

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McNair Scholars Program stands for Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. It is an elaborate educational program started by the U. S Department of Education in memory of Dr. Ronald E. McNair. He was an African American astronaut working for NASA when he lost his life aboard the Orbiter Challenger on 28th January, 1986. He was the mission specialist on the Orbiter Challenger and lost his life along with six other crew members, just after take off. This tragic incident eventually led to the commencement of the McNair Scholars Program.

Dr. Ronald  was born in South Carolina in 1950. He graduated in Physics in 1971 form North Carolina A & T State University. Later he specialized in laser physics and obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy in Physics form Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. Besides, he received an honorary doctorate of laws from North Carolina A & T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of science form Morris College in 1980 and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984. His interest in physics led him to carry out researches in isotope separation, photochemistry, infrared detectors and scientific foundations in martial arts. Apart from his academic achievements he received many awards in karate; he was fond of music and was interested in mechanics as a child. As a member of NASA Astronaut Corporation he successfully flew as a mission specialist aboard STS 41-B in 1984. In his second space mission aboard Orbiter Challenger he met his tragic end.

The McNair Scholars Program is a part of the Federal TRIO programs. These programs are federal programs which aim at giving equal education opportunities to underprivileged or deprived students. The first program under the Federal TRIO programs was the Upward Bound Program which commenced in connection with the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Many new programs have been started under the TRIO programs ever since, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program being the sixth such program. These programs aim at providing equal educational and research opportunities to students coming from all sections of the society. More details can be obtained from the website of the U. S. Department of Education www.ed.gov .

This program is fundamentally designed to give systematic guidance and assistance to students to achieve a doctorate degree. This program extends over a long period of time and guides the students at every step of college education; beginning right from the admission prerequisites. This is done through involving the students in research, workshops, seminars, conferences, internships etc. Their performances are closely monitored and they are provided with timely guidance and counseling. The projects also include financial aids, stipends, special grants and scholarships. The students who benefit from this program are mostly from the socially, economically and politically weak backgrounds. Those students who have shown remarkable potential and motivation to pursue studies are preferred for becoming the McNair Scholars. They have to be backed by an appreciable academic record to avail this opportunity.

Various programs are undertaken by universities across U. S. under the McNair Scholars Program. The program schedule of each university is different, though it is based on the common standard guidelines and conditions. Each university which has the Scholars Programs in its campus also has a separate McNair Faculty. This faculty is responsible for carrying out the different projects and programs scheduled under this program. The McNair Project Directors are supposed to send an annual report of the performance of each McNair Scholar to the U. S. Department of Education. This report is called the Annual Performance Report. In addition to the current participants of the Program the performance of the previous year's project participants is also asked for. This is meant to keep track of how the participants are performing in their fields of study.

A university generally admits 15 - 30 prospective scholars each year if they meet the criteria for selection. Only U. S. citizens and permanent residents of U. S. are eligible for the McNair Scholars Program. Those students whose parents have not studied beyond school, who represent an underprivileged group or meet the income criteria set by the U. S. Department of Education are eligible for admission, provided they prove their intention for advanced studies backed by academic achievements.

There are a number of projects that are run under the McNair  Program. The most important among those is the educational counseling provided from time to time by their staff members. They keep in regular contact with the  scholars and assess their performance. Accordingly they advise their scholars about the next stages of the project and what the participants are required to do. You have to maintain your scores throughout the program and for this the McNair staff gives timely suggestions about how you can improve your scores and the different tutoring services that you can benefit from.

The McNair scholars can avail of a number of loans, fee concessions, stipends etc. to deal with their financial constraints. These scholars are informed about the details and they can accordingly apply for the same.

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