California State University, Dominguez Hills, has been awarded the first installment–$288,800–of a five-year $1.4-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at the university.

The federal program began in 1989 to provide financial support and academic guidance to encourage and prepare under-represented, first-generation juniors and seniors for graduate studies. It is named in honor of astronaut Ronald McNair, who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. An African American, McNair was a first-generation college student who went on to earn his Ph.D. in physics. Following graduation from MIT in 1976, the South Carolina native became a staff physicist with Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue to provide services to students who are interested in obtaining an advanced degree,” said Michelle Martinez, director of the Cal State Dominguez Hills McNair Scholars Program. “During the next funding cycle, we will be focusing our efforts on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) participants.”

Cal State Dominguez Hills has had a McNair Scholars Program since 2003. The program boasts a 97 percent admittance rate of those students who applied to master’s or Ph.D. programs. To date 107 McNair Scholars have graduated from CSU Dominguez Hills and of those, currently 32 are in master’s programs, and 50 are in doctoral programs.

Each year, the Cal State Dominguez Hills McNair Scholars Program accepts only 26 juniors and seniors in good academic standing, making the program highly selective. For more information, call (310) 243-2098.