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.

The Fall 2025 Candidacy Application Will Open in September

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 Application that will include supplemental background information.

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.

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

Is Rales right for me?

We encourage you to complete our short quiz to help determine whether the Rales Fellow Program is right for you. Eligible candidates should then complete the Rales Candidacy Application for selection consideration. If you have questions about your eligibility, please email the CMU Rales Fellows Program staff at

Cohort Selection Process

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

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

Prepare and Submit your Rales Candidacy APPLICATION


September 1 Rales Program Candidacy Application opens.
December 15* Rales Program Candidacy M.S. and Ph.D. Priority Review Deadline. 
March - April Semifinalist and Finalist Notifications. 
April 15 Intent to Enroll Deadline.
*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. 


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.