The U.S. Department of Education has approved more than $1 million in funding for the McNair Scholars Program at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

The program recently received a five-year continuation grant of $232,365 per year, or $1.16 million over the life of the grant, said Director Sarah Wynn, who wrote UW-Stout’s 64-page proposal.

The program, funded since 2009 at UW-Stout, serves first-generation, limited-income and underrepresented students as they prepare for graduate school. Scholars receive a $2,800 summer research stipend, along with other benefits such as graduate school visits, assistance with graduate school applications, financial literacy and cultural and leadership events.

“We are excited that the McNair program will continue to change lives at UW-Stout. These deserving scholars receive the support they need to earn an undergraduate degree and the opportunity to continue their education at the next level,” Chancellor Bob Meyer said. “Congratulations to Sarah Wynn, her staff and team of reviewers.”

Perfect score

UW-Stout’s proposal was reviewed by 15 people on campus as well as an external reviewer, Susan Holm, from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“I am proud to say that the grant received a perfect score — both on the grant narrative and on our prior experience points, meaning we achieved all of our goals for which we were eligible in the last five years,” Wynn said.

Since 2009, UW-Stout’s program has served more than 100 students — 80 in previous years and 27 this year, with up to six more students expected to join the program by early 2018.

Of the 80 previous students, 74 earned their bachelor’s degrees — a success rate of 95 percent — and 62 percent entered graduate school.

“We aim to collaborate across both the UW-Stout campus and across the UW System to foster an environment in which every student understands that graduate education is within their reach,” Wynn said.

The last three years under Wynn and Project Adviser Jennifer Giesking nearly 80 percent of McNair scholars at UW-Stout have gone on to graduate school. The national average is 72 percent.

Success stories

McNair scholars at UW-Stout have presented research at regional, state and national conferences and have been accepted at graduate schools including UW-Madison, the University of Arkansas, Seattle University, Loyola University, Missouri State University and the University of Texas-Austin.

Scholar success stories include:

  • Tonisha Hora, who interned in U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s office
  • Lydia Pfluger, policy intern at First Focus in Washington, D.C.
  • Devon Maneule, winner of a student research competition at the Minority Access Conference in Washington, D.C.
  • Chang Lor, third in a national McNair research competition.

A 2012 graduate, Josephine Kilde, earned a doctorate degree in 2016 at the University of Colorado-Boulder and recently received a Midwest TRIO Achiever Award.

“We always say, ‘You are a McNair Scholar for life.’ Our favorite moments are hearing from our alumni who have excelled in their educational, career and personal lives,” Wynn said.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program began in 1989 to bring more disadvantaged groups into higher education. It is named after Ronald McNair, a scholar and astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.

A total of 151 colleges and universities in the U.S. have McNair programs, including nine UW System schools and three private schools in the state.

For more information, go to


Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.