Student Voice


December 1, 2023



McNair Program to leave UWRF

February 8, 2023

The McNair Program is leaving UW-River Falls after playing an integral role in the pursuit of graduate and doctoral studies over the last 22 years. The McNair Program is facilitated by the U.S. Department of Education, with a goal to provide resources for first-generation and low-income students to pursue graduate and doctoral studies.

This program was passed by Congress in honor of Dr. Ronald E. McNair, who was killed in the Challenger explosion in 1986. The program financially supports research efforts and mentorship for generally underrepresented groups. At UWRF, the program has helped 256 students, with 113 going on to complete graduate degrees and 37 completing doctorate degrees. Currently, 12 students remain in the undergraduate program and 29 are completing graduate programs. 

For universities across the nation, grants are evaluated on a five-year cycle. According to McNair Program Coordinator David Behling, UWRF missed the scoring requirements on the grant application by a slim margin, and the university plans to reapply when the election cycle reopens in the spring of 2027.

Since UWRF has secured the grant since 2001, leaders within the university are confident the program will be able to return in the future. Federal funds from the program ended on Jan. 28, 2023, but the university continues to fund the essential parts of the program for its current Cohorts 22 and 23.

Cohort 22 will graduate this semester and Cohort 23 is expected to complete their undergraduate studies in Spring 2024. These essential parts include promised financial assistance as well as the summer research program, where students are paired with a faculty member to conduct research in their chosen area of study. 

David Behling expresses his hope for an interim program or other support for students during this time. He believes that Chancellor Maria Gallo finds this work necessary being a first-generation undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral student herself.

The next steps remain undecided, as no new students are being accepted into the program in the coming years. There is also no current timeline as to when an interim program will be decided and implemented. Both staff and current students in the program express the impact this program has had and their desire for it to return to campus as soon as possible.