Businessman and philanthropist Robert F. Smith has been a fierce advocate for equity in higher education and through his latest project, he’s putting the focus on empowering scholars at his alma mater. The Vista Equity Partners founder has gifted Cornell University’s College of Engineering with a multi-million dollar endowment.
The $15 million donation will support the cultivation of scholarship initiatives for students from underserved communities and underrepresented groups who are charting paths in STEM. The institution will develop three grant programs—including the Robert F. Smith Graduate Fellowship Fund, the Robert F. Smith Undergraduate Scholarship Fund and the Robert F. Smith Student Success Fund—to eradicate barriers to entry within engineering and ultimately diversify the industry which has historically been plagued by the lack of racial and gender representation. Research shows Black students earned 7 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees and make up 9 percent of the industry’s workforce.
The initiatives are purposefully designed to provide financial assistance for HBCU graduates interested in furthering their education at Cornell through master’s and doctorate programs and diverse undergraduate students in need. The funds will support at least seven undergraduate scholars, 12 master’s students and five doctoral degree candidates annually. A fraction of the endowment will go towards mentorship and professional development opportunities.
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SOURCE: NewsOne, Brandee Sanders