Skip navigation

McNair Scholars Program at USM Awarded Grant from Jimmy A. Payne Foundation

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 08:13am | By: David Tisdale

McNair Scholars ProgramA grant from the Jimmy A. Payne Foundation will be used to help students in the McNair Scholars Program at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) achieve their graduate education goals.

The grant will cover testing/licensing fees for USM McNair Scholars beyond the Graduate Review Examination (GRE) in order to assist these often low-income, first-generation college students in pursuing graduate/professional school degrees. The McNair Scholars Program currently covers the cost of the GRE for all of its students; however, some must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), among other exams, in addition to the GRE; or may have to pay a licensure fee, depending on the requirements of their intended graduate program. Some graduate programs are dual degree programs, in which two exams are required for entry. “We’re thrilled and eternally grateful for our grant proposal to have been selected by the Jimmy Payne Foundation,” said Kim S. Brown, project director for the McNair Scholars Program. “This award will go a long way in supporting our McNair Scholars. Having to come up with the funds to pay for these exams is often a road block between our students and their futures. I know any financial assistance afforded them will be greatly appreciated, especially in helping prepare them for their pursuit of a degree beyond an undergraduate education.

“On behalf of our students, we cannot say ‘thank you’ enough.”

The McNair Scholars Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Federal TRIO Programs to serve 25 McNair Scholars each year, with that number spread out over two cohorts. It is named for the late Dr. Ronald E. McNair, an African American astronaut and physicist who died during the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger during its launch in 1986.

The USM program currently has a cohort of 14 students in the process of conducting research projects, while also taking a course preparing them for the GRE and to apply to graduate school. They will submit research papers based on their projects at the end of the summer session, and will present their research this fall.

The Jimmy A. Payne Foundation’s namesake, the late Jimmy A. Payne of Newton, Miss., served in the U.S. Army National Guard before attending USM, where he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, then began working for Proctor & Gamble. He later earned a Master of Business Administration from Mississippi College and went on to form UAD Laboratories, where he served as president and CEO until its merger with Forest Laboratories in 1989. Payne was inducted into the Southern Miss Alumni Hall of Fame in 1990 and was also a member of the Mississippi Business Journal’s Business Hall of Fame. Since his passing in 2015, his children, Jonathan Payne and April Payne Nall, have continued their father’s philanthropic legacy by overseeing the foundation he created.

The McNair Scholars program is currently recruiting its next student cohort, which will commence toward the end of the fall semester. The application is currently open in the Golden Opportunities (GO) system. Students deemed low-income by federal standards and are first-generation, or students who belong to a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education (i.e., African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Pacific Islander) are strongly encouraged to apply. These students should have at least a 3.0 GPA, 60 credit hours by the end of fall 2020, and a strong desire to attend graduate school, specifically those interested in pursuing a Ph.D. Interested students can access the application in the GO system by searching for “McNair” (

For more information about the McNair Scholars Program, contact Dr. Renee Bailey, Program Coordinator, at or 601.266.4273; or Kim Brown at or 601.266.6544. Visit the USM Graduate School and McNair Scholars Program at