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McNair Scholars Program

  • Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program

    Founded in 1996 in honor of Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D., the laser physicist and Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut, the Gannon University TRIO McNair Scholars Program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education in October of 2017. The program annually serves 25 eligible undergraduate Gannon students who are interested in engaging in undergraduate research and other scholarly activities, pursuing a graduate education, and earning a doctorate degree.

    McNair participants are either first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential. The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.

    Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D.

    Ronald Erwin McNair was born October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. While in junior high school, Dr. McNair was inspired to work hard and persevere in his studies by his family and by a teacher who recognized his scientific potential and believed in him. Dr. McNair graduated as valedictorian from Carver High School in 1967. In 1971, he graduated magna cum laude and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro). Dr. McNair then enrolled in the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1976, at the age of 26, he earned his Ph.D. in laser physics. His dissertation was titled, “Energy Absorption and Vibrational Heating in Molecules Following Intense Laser Excitation.” Dr. McNair was presented an honorary doctorate of Laws from North Carolina A&T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of Science from Morris College in 1980, and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984.


    Students must meet one of the following criteria:

    First generation student WITH financial needs


    A member of an underrepresented group in graduate education

    A member of a group that is underrepresented in graduate education; Black (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, American Indian, Alaskan Native, (as defined in section 7306 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), Native Hawaiians (as defined in section 7207 of the ESEA), and Native American Pacific Islanders (as defined in section 320 of the HEA).

    Student must also:

    • Be a citizen or national of the United States
    • Be currently enrolled at Gannon University undergraduate studies
    • Sophomore, junior or senior
    • Demonstrate academic potential for graduate study
    • Participate in the paid McNair Summer Research Institute
    • Attend the 1 credit McNair research course offered in the spring


    Download the program application. Applications can also be picked up at the McNair office located in Nash Library lower level room 036. Completed applications and essays can be emailed to Julie Pecoraro at or Charmaine Wilson at

     Program Curriculum

    • The McNair project provide the following activities: opportunities for research or other scholarly activities; summer internships; seminars and other educational activities designed to prepare students for doctoral study; tutoring; academic counseling; and activities designed to assist students participating in the project in securing admission to and financial assistance for enrollment in graduate programs.
    • Also, provide the following additional activities: educational counseling services designed to improve financial and economic literacy of students; mentoring programs involving faculty members at Gannon University or students, or any combination of such persons; and exposure to cultural events and academic programs not usually available to students "most at promised".
    • Participate in 1 credit "intro to research" course offered in spring semester by the McNair Leadership Team.


    The McNair Scholars Program is extremely beneficial when applying to graduate school. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students by providing services designed to enhance successful entry into post-baccalaureate education. It demonstrates that the student is capable of going beyond course requirements and is truly interested in learning about how an academic discipline approaches problem solving. Additionally, undergraduate research training provides the skills and knowledge essential for success in the workplace. Other benefits include:

    • Dedicated faculty mentor
    • GRE test preparation
    • Reduced GRE test fee vouchers
    • Application fee waivers from over 200 participating graduate schools.
    • Paid summer research that includes free room and board (2,800)
    • Opportunities to attend local, regional, and national conferences to present research
    • Opportunities to visit graduate school programs
    •  Academic counseling and advising
    •  Financial literacy
    •  Cultural activities and enrichment trainings
    •  Receive assistance applying to graduate schools
    •  Receive assistance applying for financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships
    •  Become a part of a community, and
    •   Interaction with students in your field of interest

    *Travel funds are contingent upon program participation and are granted at the discretion of the director.

    Summer Research

    The McNair Summer Research Institute promotes research between scholars and faculty mentors that are instrumental in preparing undergraduate students for successful entry into graduate programs. For 8 weeks, rising juniors and/or seniors participate in research with faculty; standardized test preparation; writing a statement of purpose; and graduate school exploration. In addition, McNair Scholars present their current research findings at the end of the summer program at the Gannon Gallery of Engagement Symposium.


    Charmaine Wilson
    McNair Director
     109 University Square Erie, PA 16541 Nash Library 036

     Julie Pecoraro
     McNair Coordinator
     814-871- 7194
     109 University Square Erie, PA 16541 Nash Library 038


    McNair. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from