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

CMU Rales Fellows Program

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. 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 identify and engage potential students 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.

Expanding Access


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

Eliminating Cost Barriers


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

Holistic Support


Cohort-based onboarding, concierge career services and 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

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 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 application 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.

About the Norman 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.