Logo: TRIO McNair Scholars Program

The TRIO McNair Scholars Program is a graduate school preparatory program funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by St. Olaf College. The TRIO McNair Program was founded in 1989 and initiated at St. Olaf College in 2007. Nationally there are 187 McNair programs working with over 5,000 students.

The federally mandated goal of McNair is to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students who participate in undergraduate research, graduate with a B.A., and immediately enter and complete graduate school, with a specific focus on obtaining a Ph.D.

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  • Annually, 28 undergraduates participate in the St. Olaf TRIO McNair Scholars Program.
  • Two-thirds of the participants meet federal income guidelines and are from a family in which neither parent graduated from a four-year postsecondary educational institution.
  • One-third of the participants may be from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in graduate studies and the professoriate. (The federal government defines “underrepresented” to include: Black (non-Hispanic); Hispanic; and American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.)
  • Participants have completed at least 2 courses in their area of research interest and have a GPA of 2.75 or higher.


The TRIO McNair Program provides opportunities for participants to develop graduate school level skills necessary to gain admission to and complete graduate study. Scholars receive assistance with:

  • Proactive academic and personal advising
  • On or off-campus internship/research placement – summer of sophomore year to explore fields of study
  • On-campus research experience – participants are paired with a faculty mentor in their field
  • Summer research writing class (one credit & WAC)
  • Preparation for graduate school admissions tests
  • Graduate school search, grad visits and application assistance
  • Financial aid, fellowship, and scholarship application assistance

Objectives and Outcomes

All TRIO McNair projects must meet the federally approved program objectives each academic year. Following are the St. Olaf TRIO McNair objectives: Objective 1: 90% of participants will complete research or scholarly activities each academic year. Objective 2: 40% of B.A. recipients will enroll in graduate school immediately following graduation. Objective 3: 80% of first-year graduate students will continue to be enrolled in graduate school. Objective 4: 10% of participants will attain a Ph.D. within ten years. (Click here for the St. Olaf TRIO McNair Scholars Program Roster (2007-Present).

St. Olaf TRIO McNair Alumni Summary (2007-2022)

  • 186 Students Served Since 2007; 82% are from backgrounds underrepresented in graduate school; 77% are from first-generation-to-college backgrounds
  • 67% of McNair graduates are enrolled or have completed graduate school
  • 45% of students have completed or are enrolled in a Master’s program
  • 22% of students have completed or enrolled in a Ph.D. or MD program
  • 32% have completed or enrolled in a graduate program in STEM
  • 41% of Scholars who enroll in graduate school, enroll immediately after graduation
  • Over 75 St. Olaf Faculty have served as Research Mentors

McNair Scholars Faculty Mentors

McNair faculty mentors are professors from all disciplines at St. Olaf College and are interested in guiding summer research experiences with high potential, first-generation, and minority undergraduates. McNair Scholars faculty members are recognized by colleagues and students as exceptional professors and campus leaders.

(Dr. Jean Porterfield is pictured with her 2022 summer research team.)

Logo: TRIO McNair Scholars Program Logo: Educational Opportunity Association

The St. Olaf TRIO McNair staff are members of the McNair Association of Professionals, Minnesota TRIO Association, Educational Opportunity Association, and the Council for Opportunity in Education. St. Olaf College is also an awarded First Gen Forward Institution.

Support Resources: St. Olaf College is committed to creating and maintaining an environment in which all members of the St. Olaf community are treated with respect and dignity, free from bias and harassment. Incidents of bias, harassment, and hate crimes all include some form of unwelcome conduct that is based on a person’s race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, or any other protected class status. If you need assistance, please check out these resources or contact the McNair staff. Use this form to report any behaviors of concern involving St. Olaf students, faculty or staff. If you have any questions regarding filing an incident report, please contact the Director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity or the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion.