Carnegie Mellon University
Photo of an engineer in a lab with the Rales logo overlaid.

CMU Rales Fellows Program

The CMU Rales Fellows Program is a distinctive and transformative program dedicated to developing a diverse community of exceptionally talented national STEM leaders from underrepresented or underresourced backgrounds by eliminating cost as a barrier to graduate education. The program was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation. Through their leadership, determination and innovation, Rales Fellows work toward advancements in the sciences and technology to further human progress while inspiring and building a path for others to follow. When fully implemented, the CMU Rales Fellows Program expects to support a cohort of more than 80 fellows in M.S. and Ph.D. programs annually.

Carnegie Mellon and the Ron Brown Scholar Program (RBSP) have entered into a new collaboration to engage potential scholars for the CMU Rales Fellows Program. Through the partnership, RBSP staff members will advise CMU on recruitment strategies and materials, promote the CMU Rales Fellows Program to its current scholars and alumni, and provide advising and mentorship to potential CMU Rales Fellows applicants. CMU will also continue to collaborate with the National GEM Consortium and to develop and expand partnerships with universities that serve both rural and urban communities to further facilitate access to a graduate STEM education.

Join the Rales Program email list

Expanding Access


Priority for students pursuing master’s degrees who are from underrepresented and underresourced backgrounds, including first generation students. 

Eliminating Cost Barriers


Full tuition and an annual stipend to cover living expenses, housing and health insurance.

Holistic Support


Cohort-based experience, faculty mentoring, programs to develop personal and professional networks, and access to leadership in local and global communities.

Prepare for Fall 2024 Applications

Rales Fellows

Join the nation’s most talented STEM students, including those who are:

  • Enrolling in full-time, in-person, graduate programs on CMU’s Pittsburgh campus
  • Committed to pursuing graduate STEM education and enrichment in select masters or doctoral programs in the College of Engineering, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mellon College of Science, or School of Computer Science
  • Preparing for success in their chosen post-graduate careers across a broad range of opportunities

The first cohort of CMU Rales Fellows is expected to enroll for the fall 2024 semester.

  • Each prospective CMU Rales Fellow will be required to apply to the CMU academic graduate program(s) in which they are interested and follow that department's admission process.
  • Prospective Rales Fellows also will be required to complete a separate CMU Rales Fellow Candidacy Form that will include supplemental background information.

The Missing Millions

missing-millions-01-900x600.jpgThe National Science Foundation and National Science Board have issued urgent calls to increase the U.S. STEM talent pool in order for the U.S. to maintain its position as a leader in research and to compete globally. In its Vision 2030, the NSB called for the U.S. to “be aggressive about cultivating the fullness of the nation’s domestic talent” by broadening the diversity of the STEM workforce, in which women, Black and Latinx people are significantly underrepresented compared to their share of the overall population. 

Data from the NSF and NSB show that women, Black and Latinx students are one-half and sometimes even one-third as likely to be working in STEM fields as their white male counterparts. Similarly, the Pew Research Center in 2021 found that first-generation students were about 20 percent less likely to pursue a graduate degree. Carnegie Mellon’s own analysis finds this underrepresentation is reflected in students completing graduate STEM degrees. These underrepresented groups cite cost as well as undergraduate debt as the key reasons they do not pursue graduate education. For first-generation students pursuing doctoral degrees, the average undergraduate loan was 65% higher than for continuing-generation students, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.

Empowering students from underrepresented and underresourced backgrounds — dubbed the Missing Millions by the National Science Foundation — through a graduate degree will increase the number and diversity of voices within STEM research, education and innovation, and also will help the U.S. meet the growing need for a new generation of leaders.

The CMU Rales Fellows will directly address the Missing Millions issue through a distinctive program that provides students with full tuition, a stipend to cover living expenses, housing and health insurance, and a holistic ecosystem of developmental and networking opportunities.

Program Candidacy Criteria 

  1. U.S. Citizenship, Permanent Resident or DACA Recipient
  2. Applying to eligible, graduate STEM degree program on CMU’s Pittsburgh campus
  3. Underrepresented in a STEM discipline including, but not limited to, socioeconomic status*, first-generation to attend college+ or prior attendance at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institution or Minority-Serving Institution (MSI)#

*Considerations relevant to socioeconomic status determination: 1) Did you receive the Federal Pell Grant as an undergraduate student? 2) Did you qualify for need-based aid as an undergraduate student? 3) Do you have more than $23,000 in student loans? 4) Is your annual family income less than $135,000?
+First-generation students are the first in their family to attend college, their parents received an associate degree, or they attended a 4-year college/university but did not graduate.
#Current listing of designated institutions

When considering the CMU Rales Fellow Program opportunity, please ask yourself:

  1. Am I passionate about science, technology, engineering or math (STEM)?
  2. Am I considering graduate education at the master’s or doctoral level?
  3. Are there graduate programs at Carnegie Mellon University that align with my interests?
  4. Do I seek an educational experience that would support my growth as a talented scholar, an innovative researcher, an inclusivity advocate and a purpose-driven leader?
  5. Would I thrive in an environment that offers distinctive opportunities and prepares me for a broad range of professional outcomes?
  6. Am I interested in  being a part of a community of like-minded peers who are committed to making a positive impact through our individual and collective work? 
  7. Would it be important for me to have full financial support during my graduate student experience? 

Cohort Selection Process

Individuals interested in consideration for the CMU Rales Fellows Program are required to complete and submit the Rales Candidacy Form in addition to their graduate admission application(s).

The purpose of the Rales Candidacy Form is to formally declare candidacy for the Rales Fellows Program and to express alignment with the Program goals.

Prepare and Submit your Rales Candidacy Form


September – January Apply to eligible, graduate STEM degree program on CMU’s Pittsburgh campus.*
December 15 Complete the Rales Candidacy Form in addition to graduate admissions application(s) by December 15. Rales Candidacy Forms received after December 15 will be reviewed on a rolling basis. 
March - April Respond to semi-finalist and finalist Fellow notifications. 
April 15 Finalists respond with intent to accept or decline the offer no later than April 15.
*Candidates must meet the application deadline and requirements of the specific program(s) to which they are applying.

About the Norman R. and Ruth Rales Foundation

The Rales Foundation was established in 1986 by Norman Rales (1923-2012) and Ruth Abramson Rales (1922-2004), two individuals from modest circumstances who built an extraordinary life together based upon values of integrity, compassion, hard work and giving back to others. The Rales Foundation was created to advance their shared, lifelong desire to help people in need, and create opportunities through which others might thrive.

Norman Rales grew up in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in upper Manhattan, from which he was discharged in 1940, at age 17. Ruth Abramson was raised in Pittsburgh by parents who had fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe. After they married, in 1948 they moved from New York City to Pittsburgh to lower expenses and be closer to her family. In the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, they raised their children, and Norman began his climb in business.

As children of immigrants who fled persecution in Europe, Norman and Ruth believed deeply in the promise of America and the opportunity it offers all its people, regardless of background, to realize their full potential. They were also driven by a deeply held personal commitment to give back to others to keep the American spirit of generosity and possibility alive for new generations.

The Foundation chose Carnegie Mellon University as the institution with which to establish the CMU Rales Fellows Program based on Carnegie Mellon’s stellar reputation, leadership and entrepreneurship as well as the university’s demonstrated commitment to increasing diversity in the STEM fields.