McNair Scholars Program for First-Generation, Low-Income Students Receives Federal Funding for Five More Years

September 27, 2022

CU Denver will receive $1.31 million over a five-year period to continue supporting the doctoral aspirations of first-generation and low-income students and students from communities historically underrepresented in higher education. The funding is thanks to the U.S. Department of Education’s renewal of the university’s McNair Scholars Program, which the university has secured for two consecutive grant competition cycles. 

Named after Ronald E. McNair, a former NASA astronaut who earned his PhD in laser physics and was the second African American to fly in space, the McNair Scholars Program is one of eight federal TRIO programs funded across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. McNair prepares eligible participants for doctoral studies and degrees through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.  

Sonia Valencia

TRIO Programs Director Sonia Valencia composed CU Denver’s proposal with support from Samuel Kim, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and other campus offices. While Kim played a critical role in creating the infrastructure necessary to prepare a strong proposal, the Office of the Provost, Institutional Research and Effectiveness, Financial Aid and Scholarship Office, Housing and Dining, Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, and other campus partners were instrumental in providing the necessary data to compose the grant.  

“This award recognizes the positive impact CU Denver’s McNair Scholars Program has made in the last five years and the strength of the vision and plan we have articulated to continue advancing access and equity in graduate education,” Valencia said. “As a first-generation immigrant from a low-income family, I know firsthand that TRIO programs like McNair are a lifeline for those of us who are the first in our families to pursue a college degree and doctoral studies.” 

The McNair Scholars Program at CU Denver helps eligible undergraduates acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully navigate the rigors of PhD studies through paid undergraduate research opportunities and scholarly activities. McNair participants receive graduate school application support, a graduate school application fee waiver, GRE (Graduate Records Examination) preparation, and a voucher to help shoulder the costs of the GRE tests. Program participants receive funding to present their research at national conferences and symposia. Students are also eligible to receive funds to attend in-person graduate school interviews.   

CU Denver McNair alumni have enrolled in graduate programs at institutions that include CU Denver, the University of California Irvine, Harvard, CU Anschutz, and Texas A&M University-Central Texas.  

This article was written by Sonia Valencia, director of TRIO Student Support Services and McNair.