Opportunity Scholars at UMSL

Members of the Opportunity Scholars Program at UMSL recently met with AT&T executives to talk about how corporate and individual gifts to the scholarship program will help the St. Louis region. Those meeting included (from left) Briona Perry, sophomore, biochemistry; Debra Hollingsworth, vice president, external affairs, AT&T Missouri; Eric’el Johnson, freshman, electrical engineering; John Sondag, president, AT&T Missouri; Cedric Harris, sophomore, biology; Tom George, UMSL chancellor; and Ellen Vehig, freshman, civil engineering. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Eric’el Johnson has set her sights on being a professor of electrical engineering. Her classmate Ellen Vehige wants to build bridges as a civil engineer. Thanks to the Opportunity Scholars Program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, these two college freshmen could play a critical role in the St. Louis region’s future.

They recently joined two other OSP students who have similar dreams: sophomores Briona Perry, a biochemistry major, and Cedric Harris, a biology major. The students got to tell their stories to John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri, and Debra Hollingsworth, vice president of public affairs at AT&T Missouri, over lunch.  Johnson, Vehige, Perry and Harris are also Pierre Laclede Honors College students.

AT&T’s recent gift to the scholars program brings the company’s total to $500,000. The gathering was held at Chancellor Tom George’s residence on campus.

UMSL’s Opportunity Scholars Program began with conversations between the university and St. Louis-area corporate leaders who were looking for a more diverse work force in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“The sponsors of this scholarship are investing in talented students to keep them here in the region,” George said. “In addition to the financial benefits, the scholarship provides opportunities for the students to create long lasting relationships through summer jobs and internships with our corporate sponsors.”

Created in 2011, the program recruits top St. Louis-area high school students who are underrepresented or are the first in their family to enroll in college. OSP students receive an all-inclusive four-year scholarship and residential package.

“It is an honor to continue our partnership with the Opportunity Scholars Program at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and help students reach their academic and career goals,” said John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri. “AT&T’s commitment to education and STEM is as much a part of our legacy as our future because we know that investments in students today will help prepare them for the future and keep Missouri competitive in the global economy.”

In addition to AT&T, contributors to the scholarship program include Emerson, Energizer, Reinsurance Group of America, Stan and Terry Freerks, and David and Thelma Steward.

For scholarship criteria, guidelines and more information visit umsl.edu/opportunityscholars.

Media coverage:
St. Louis Business Journal
The St. Louis American

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel