person wearing a white lab coat and blue surgical gloves is working with test tubes

Photo by Yenitza Melgoza

August 26, 2022

SIU receives $1.3M grant to continue McNair Scholars Program

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A program that has helped hundreds of disadvantaged students earn advanced college degrees will continue at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, thanks to a $1.3 million federal grant that honors the memory of an astronaut. 

The university will receive five more years of funding for the Ronald McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, known on campus as the McNair Scholars Program. The program is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO outreach program. 

Established at SIU in 2003, McNair Scholars are typically first-generation college students from low-income families or groups that traditionally are underserved in higher education. The program serves about 29 participants each year, focusing on enhancing their scholastic and research skills while also providing the mentoring and support that prepares them for success in graduate school. 

The program is named for the late Ronald E. McNair, a physicist and astronaut who died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. 

Rhetta Seymour, director of the McNair Scholars Program, said the most recent five-year funding cycle was for 2017-2022. The new grant will carry the program through 2027 at SIU, providing $272,364 annually.

“Our office lets students know that they matter and we are here to support their efforts,”
Seymour said. “Also, the mentoring from faculty and staff in the program helps students develop critical professional and networking skills that will help them achieve success after graduation.”

Since receiving its first McNair grant 19 years ago, SIU has provided opportunities to 237 students. Those students have gone on to earn 119 master’s degrees and 17 doctoral degrees.