University of Rochester

Mcnair Program Salutes Work of Graduate Students, Encourages More Minorities to Choose Graduate School

January 16, 2001

Fifteen years after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, young people are pursuing graduate studies in the footsteps of one Challenger astronaut, Ronald E. McNair. A program to honor McNair, a physicist and the second African American to fly in space, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, on the University of Rochester's River Campus.

The free program is open to the public, especially college students who are considering graduate school. Workshops will detail the process toward a Ph.D. degree, how students of color are recruited and retained, and introduce four graduate students, who will speak about their experiences.

Along with University of Rochester faculty members, workshop panelists will include Orlando Taylor, graduate school dean at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and board chair of the Council of Graduate Schools; Howard Johnson, graduate school dean at Syracuse University; and Bruce Jacobs, dean of graduate studies at Rochester.

At 3 p.m., a commemorative celebration of the life of McNair will be led by Curtis Graves, a friend of McNair's and a high-ranking official at NASA, and held in the Interfaith Chapel. McNair, a native of South Carolina, received his bachelor's degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and his doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1978, he realized his dream of becoming an astronaut, then flew on his first mission in 1984. On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch and killed McNair and six other crew members.

After the Challenger disaster, Congress approved funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which is designed to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority college students who pursue and complete the doctoral degree. Its long-range goal is to add to the diversity of faculty at U.S. colleges and universities.

At the University of Rochester, the McNair Program is part of the College and offers a variety of services, including academic and personal counseling, tutoring, study groups, workshops on topics germane to the pursuit of a graduate degree, research, and assistance through the graduate application process. There are about 160 McNair programs throughout the United States. Currently, Rochester McNair scholars are completing graduate degrees at a variety of institutions.

The day's activities are co-sponsored by McNair programs at the University of Rochester, SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Fredonia, Syracuse University, University of Buffalo, and Buffalo State College. To confirm attendance, please call (585) 275-7512.

Information about the McNair program at the University of Rochester is available on the Web at