Securing the Best and the Brightest

Securing the Best and the Brightest
University Scholar Jodi Oliver, a hospitality management student, prepares vegetables for a veal stock she is making for class.
Winnie Wong credits the University Scholars Program with giving her the opportunity to network.

Ask Cal Poly Pomona junior Jodi Oliver what the University Scholar Program has done for her educational career, and she?ll give you an earful.

?The University Scholars Program really kept me focused. It encouraged me to keep up my grade point average and take those hard classes,? says Oliver, a hospitality management major with an impressive 3.79 grade point average. ?It has allowed me to map out my four years of college and make sure I am on track with other scholars.?

Developed to draw the highest caliber of students to Cal Poly Pomona, the University Scholars Program — formerly the Kellogg Scholars Program — recognizes and rewards academic excellence and outstanding achievements of deserving high school graduates throughout the state.

University Scholar recipients are chosen based on an exceptional GPA, high class rank, proven leadership ability and community and work-related involvement. The program is intended as a reward and incentive for students to continue their quest for academic and civic excellence at Cal Poly Pomona.

?This program is meant to bring in higher academic achievers from area high schools to help Cal Poly Pomona remain competitive with other universities,? says Melanie Saracco, director of financial aid. ?It?s the only merit-based scholarship offered at Cal Poly Pomona that covers full tuition fees, so there are many students who turn down offers from other schools because of this scholarship.?

Approximately 500 high school students, with GPAs ranging from 4.0 to 4.76, applied for the 2002-03 University Scholars Program. Many of the applicants earned SAT scores of 1110 to 1520 and ranked 1 to 71 in their graduating high school classes. The selection committee, comprised of faculty and administrators from each college, awarded scholarships to 38 students this year, 14 of whom accepted and enrolled at the university.

?The number of students applying greatly increased this year. We had a good applicant pool, which made it a very tough decision,? says Saracco.

Students are awarded a four-year renewable scholarship of $1,800 per year; reductions for on-campus room charges; free preferential parking for their freshman year; and recognition at several events including an annual reception hosted by President Suzuki for scholars and their parents. The prestigious scholarship can total $8,600 over the course of a student?s education. A GPA of 3.0 in 36 units is required for students to continue in the program.

Although many University Scholars would have chosen to attend Cal Poly Pomona regardless of their four-year scholarship, most are eager to admit the program has greatly contributed to their success as undergraduates. Winnie Wong, a senior with a double major in computer information systems and economics, says the scholarship program provided her a chance to network with other students and university officials.

?Being a freshman, it?s hard to meet new people, but being a (University) Scholar gave me an opportunity to meet other scholars and even the university president,? says Wong, 20, of Chino Hills. ?The (scholarship) program has also helped me in job searching. People see that I am capable and successful.?

Senior La Shawn Wallace, a management and human resources major, said the University Scholar Program has ?been an extremely wonderful blessing? in her life.

?I would have gone (to Cal Poly Pomona) either way, but I am grateful I didn?t have to worry about finding the money for school. I was able to just concentrate on my school work,? says the 21-year-old Diamond Bar resident, whose older brother also graduated from the university.

For the first time since the program?s inception seven years ago, area residents and businesses are now being given an opportunity to support the university?s highest academic achievers through a named endowment.

?Endowments have become an extremely popular method to honor a loved one or for a corporation to be recognized in a way that lasts into perpetuity,? says Ron Simons, associate vice president of university development. ?Only the earnings are used to fund the scholarships, fully protecting the principal investment, which is left intact to produce funds each year.?

With as many as 80 new and continuing participants each year, it costs the university $160,000 to $250,000 annually to run the University Scholars Program. The program is currently funded through current donor support to the President?s Office, but university officials hope to raise $3.2-$3.5 million in the coming year to endow the entire program.

?We?ve just started the endowment process. The University Scholars Program will be run similarly to the President?s Council Scholarships where individual donors can fund each award,? says Saracco. ?We?re hoping to implement an honors program that will go hand in hand with this one and help to bring in additional academic achievers.?

For $40,000, an individual or organization can establish an endowed university-wide, merit-based scholarship that runs into perpetuity. This money would be added to the $16 million endowment pool that is overseen by the Cal Poly Pomona University Educational Trust.

?These types of sponsors might be leading businesses in the community that would like to be identified in an endowment for a high school of their choice,? added Simons.

To learn more about supporting students through the named University Scholars endowments, contact Melanie Saracco, director of financial aid, at (909) 869-3714, or