The mission of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to provide opportunities for undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds especially from underrepresented academic groups (Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans/Alaska Natives/Pacific Islanders) to excel at the undergraduate level in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM), progress toward doctoral degrees, and undertake careers in college and university teaching.
Research is an important part of the program with McNair students pursuing a year of independent research under the supervision of a faculty mentor. This mentor is usually a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Boston, but may also be from a hospital research laboratory or from another research institution. This research experience culminates with each participant giving an oral or poster presentation at a Scientific Conference, and also to the Scientific Community at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Students also may submit their research findings to journals within the participant’s discipline for publication. Students enrolled in the McNair Program form peer support groups, tutelage academic and career counseling, and take part in a variety of cultural, educational and social activities.
The McNair program is built on the assumption that many exceptional individuals from low-income, first-generation backgrounds who would make superb college teachers may not be easily identified. Inadequate academic preparation at the secondary level and the resulting mediocre performance in lower division courses, combined with cultural barriers, often result in their potential being overlooked by already overburdened faculty.
McNair intervenes to identify these students early in their academic programs to facilitate mentoring relationships between them with outstanding faculty in their chosen disciplines. Seminars are often conducted focused on specific skill areas such as library research, technical writing, or special issues in a given discipline. Ongoing counseling allows each McNair fellow to increase his/her-self confidence while, honing his/her academic interests.
McNair mentors work with the fellows as they develop application for admission to doctoral programs and applications for financial assistance. Often it is the personal involvement of McNair mentors at this stage with colleagues at other institutions that is the critical factor in securing a student's admission to a particular graduate program or securing a fellowship or assistantship.