Emerson is contributing $1.65 million and internships to help found a new program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis to enhance the quality and diversity of the region’s science, engineering and technology work force – and retain that talent in the community.

The Opportunity Scholars Program is an all-inclusive, four-year scholarship that will be awarded to under-represented and first-generation college students from local high schools who demonstrate academic ability and commitment to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Corporate partners will provide financial support, internships and mentors.

“Many of our high-achieving students leave St. Louis to pursue their college elsewhere and do not return. Emerson believes it is important to support the quality and resourcefulness of our educational system at all levels if our communities are to grow and prosper,” said Emerson Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President David N. Farr. “This program will enable us to retain some of the best and brightest students and prepare them to be future leaders for the St. Louis region.”

The genesis for The Opportunity Scholars Program started with conversations between UMSL Chancellor Tom George and area corporate leaders about the long-term effect on St. Louis’ economy if companies cannot continue to recruit and retain a quality, diverse work force. The issue of this perceived “brain drain” has been detailed recently in editorials and articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Business Journal and St. Louis Commerce Magazine.

“UMSL provides an exceptional education to students who are interested in learning and ultimately living in a metropolitan region,” George said. “We have more alumni [about 60,000] working and living in St. Louis than any other university. The unfortunate truth, though, is that many outstanding students still leave this region because of generous scholarships that we could not match. This program will help change that situation – not just because of its financial obligations, but also for the corporate experiences and relationships students will automatically gain. This is very unique.”

Joining Emerson and UMSL with initial support are David and Thelma Steward and Energizer. The Stewards are contributing and making internships available at World Wide Technology, where David Steward is chairman. Energizer has also agreed to support The Opportunities Scholars Program through its Keep Going Peer Mentoring Program.

UMSL will issue 10 scholarships per year, with the first cohort to begin the fall 2011 semester. UMSL is seeking $10 million in private funding to initialize support of the program.

Farr has offered to assist Chancellor George and George Paz, Chairman, CEO and President of Express Scripts Inc. and chairman of UMSL’s Gateway for Greatness fundraising campaign, to secure additional corporate support. UMSL has surpassed its original seven-year campaign goal of $100 million two years early. George announced that UMSL’s new goal is $150 million by July 2012.

Emerson. Emerson (NYSE:EMR), based in St. Louis, is a global leader in bringing technology and engineering together to provide innovative solutions for customers in industrial, commercial, and consumer markets through its network power, process management, industrial automation, climate technologies, and appliance and tools businesses. Sales in fiscal 2009 were $20.9 billion.

UMSL. The University of Missouri–St. Louis is a public metropolitan research university located in Missouri’s most populous and economically important region. UMSL provides exceptional learning experiences and leadership opportunities to a diverse student body through the university’s outstanding faculty, ranked programs, innovative research and community partnerships.

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Bob Samples

Bob Samples

Bob Samples is associate vice chancellor for university communications at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.