McNair Scholars Program awarded continued funding



Sept. 21, 2017

The Harding University McNair Scholars Program announced it will receive continued funding from the U.S. Department of Education through 2022, amounting to more than $1.2 million. The program, a part of the national Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, exists to support first-generation college students and to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.

Twenty-seven Harding students each year are selected to participate in the program based on their qualifications and interest in attending graduate school. Scholars participate in workshops that prepare them for the graduate school admissions process, attend graduate school visits, and complete a summer research internship with a faculty mentor. This research is often presented at various state and national conferences.

“One of the perks of being a McNair Scholar is that graduate schools around the country are familiar with the program and actively recruit graduates of McNair programs,” McNair Scholars Program Director Linda Thompson said. “Our juniors and seniors are inundated with information from schools wanting them to apply to their programs.”

The McNair program was first funded nationally in 1989 as part of the federal TRIO program and is named for Ronald E. McNair, an astronaut and laser physics expert. McNair, who held his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the second African American to fly in space. He died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986.

“Dr. McNair embodied the goals of the program which aims to support higher-education aspirations for first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds, as well as students of color who are underrepresented in graduate education,” Thompson said.

Thompson has led Harding’s program since its inception, helping draft the initial grant proposal in 2003. She is retiring from Harding this fall after 31 years at the University.

“We will have a whole new staff administering this grant program for its upcoming years,” Thompson said. “I feel very good about the program. Approximately two-thirds of our graduates go on to get some kind of graduate degree. We serve a group of wonderful students. They are serious about their education and serious about serving others — the kind of young people you’re proud to see going out and representing Harding.”

Harding University is a private Christian, liberal arts university located in Searcy, Arkansas. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, it is the largest private university in the state. Harding’s student body represents all 50 states and 54 nations and territories. The University offers more than 100 undergraduate majors; graduate and professional degrees at the master’s, specialist and doctoral levels; as well as numerous study abroad opportunities including locations in Australia, Chile, England, France, Greece, Italy and Zambia. For more information, visit

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