Ramapo awarded prestigious $1.3M McNair grant

Award will be used to help graduate STEM students from underserved communities

Ramapo College of New Jersey has been awarded the prestigious Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Grant from the U.S. Department of Education — an award that will bring $1.3 million in federal funding to help support underrepresented minority STEM students in pursuit of doctoral degrees.

The award, distributed over five years, will go toward readying 25 academically talented low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority science, technology, engineering and mathematics students.

The McNair program at Ramapo College will provide one-on-one academic counseling, faculty-guided peer tutoring, research and internship opportunities and support in the application process for post-baccalaureate programs, which includes workshops for the graduate school application process, standardized test preparation and graduate program tours.

Sandra Suarez, director of the Ramapo College STEM Center, Upward Bound Math Science, and who will also direct the McNair program at Ramapo, obviously was thrilled by the news.

“The McNair grant is the missing piece of our outreach programs,” she said. “The Ramapo STEM Center supports programs for math and science students, the college and the community. This grant helps bridge the achievement gap for STEM students from the time they are in high school all the way through their Ph.D.”

The grant enables Ramapo to expand existing support for economically disadvantaged and underrepresented students. In 2022, the college opened the First-Generation Student Center, which, in part, supports students in navigating and accessing resources to alleviate institutional barriers.

This fall, the college enrolled its most diverse class in history. More than 46% of first-year students identified as first-generation and 48% as non-white students.

Ramapo College Provost and Vice President of Teaching and Learning Michael Middleton said the award reflects the dedication of faculty, staff and students to inclusive excellence.

“Ramapo has a longstanding tradition of providing opportunities for all students to excel academically and pursue their dreams,” he said. “The grant will allow us to build on that legacy and empower even more students to reach their full potential.”

Ramapo College is one of fewer than 200 institutions nationwide to be part of the McNair program. McNair is one of a cluster of eight federal programs collectively known as TRIO that are designed primarily to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, with the ultimate goal of helping them to overcome economic, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education. In addition to McNair, Ramapo is also a participant in two other TRIO programs: Upward Bound Math Science and Student Support Services, creating a pipeline of support for students from high school into college, and preparing them for success beyond graduation.

The McNair program is named after Ronald E. McNair, who was an American astronaut and physicist. He was the second Black astronaut to fly in space. He perished with his heroic flight crew in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion.