The University of California, Riverside was selected as one of the 10 American Talent Initiative members to receive the prestigious opportunity to participate in the Kessler Scholars Collaborative. This will result in UCR receiving a grant of $1 million over a period of five years. Over this five-year grant period that will last from July 2022 to June 2027, UCR will devote at least 40% of the total grant, or $400,000, to direct student aid. The American Talent Initiative is also quite notable for their goal of enrolling and graduating more than 50,000 students from lower-income backgrounds by 2025.

Kessler scholars was first established in 2008 at the University of Michigan in order to provide help for first-generation, limited-income students. Many students in this position are excited to be pursuing a four-year degree, but financial challenges may prove to be a large roadblock for many. The brightest students are often unable to apply themselves and their skills due to these limitations. The Collaborative aims to change that experience across a network of colleges and universities through financial support and academic, professional and personal support services. Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Judy and Fred Wilpon Family Foundation have provided their support for the grant.

The cornerstones of this Collaborative fall under four separate pillars of aid. The first is to support first generation students by assisting them in their transition to college and graduation from a four-year program through a comprehensive academic and social support system. The Collaborative also aims to connect leadership of higher education staff at notable institutions to strengthen individual and collective capacity to further support. First-generation student success will thirdly be supported through the integration of scholarly research, evaluation and evidence-informed practices. Lastly, the Collaborative will facilitate authentic engagement by
fostering meaningful connections among Kessler Scholars, alumni and program staff across institutions.

Thomas Dickson, assistant vice provost of Undergraduate Education, explained how UC Riverside will make plans to welcome the first class of 20 Kessler Scholars in the fall quarter of 2023. Dickinson elaborated, “The grant will expand on our existing efforts from the TRIO and First-Gen Initiatives offices in supporting first generation students. Specifically, UCR will support first-generation, low-income and underrepresented minority students, seeking to innovate methods to better help students to and through graduation, as well as engage in high-impact practices and activities for career readiness.”

UCR will be joining the Collaborative with other partner institutions including Bates College, Brown University, Centre College, Ohio State University, Saint Mary’s College, University of Dayton, University of Pittsburgh, Washington University in St. Louis and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The original six inaugural campus partners of the Collaborative were Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Queens College, St. Francis College, Syracuse University and the University of Michigan.