Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, June 1, 2012

Diversity scholarship program graduates its first class

An Alumni Association scholarship program, designed to attract a diverse set of underrepresented students to the U-M campus, has produced its first set of alumni.

An initial group of 22 Alumni Association LEAD Scholars graduated this year.

  Some of the members of the first graduating class of U-M Alumni Association LEAD Scholars gather for a photo before commencement this spring. (Photo courtesy of the Alumni Association)

Launched in 2007, LEAD — which stands for Leadership, Excellence, Achievement, Diversity — has helped to attract some of the nation’s most talented and qualified underrepresented students to U-M. The scholarship program focuses on African-American, Hispanic and Native American students and also strives to address gender diversity.

LEAD offers scholarships after students have been admitted to the university. The scholarships provide up to $10,000 a year to Michigan-resident students and $15,000 to non-resident students. This year, 113 high-achieving undergraduate students composed the LEAD Scholars.

“Ivy League and other out-of-state public and private universities compete aggressively to recruit these exceptional young people, and the U-M campus benefits greatly by having their talent here,” says Alumni Association President and CEO Steve Grafton.

One of those graduates is Joey McCoy of Dexter. He graduated a semester early and was a speaker at Winter Commencement 2011. He talked about the sense of community he felt on campus.

“As students here, we are inundated with the ideal of the Michigan Difference. But what does this really mean?” he asks. “To me, the answer is community.”

In fact, the sense of community is so strong that LEAD has evolved from strictly a scholarship program to more of a community of scholars.

“The LEAD program has evolved from a scholarship to a scholar community,” says Ayanna McConnell, the Alumni Association’s manager of diversity initiatives.  

The Alumni Association offers a growing number of opportunities for the scholars to interact with each other and alumni. This year, for example, they gathered for a welcome event at the start of the year, attended a networking workshop with the Association’s career staff, made recruiting calls to prospective scholars and met with alumni at a variety of dinners and receptions.

As LEAD becomes more community-oriented, the scholars are beginning to take ownership, including through the new LEAD Scholars Advisory Board. Junior Alyssa Arnesen is one student who has gotten involved.

“The scholarship program gave me so much and I want to give back as an alumna, but I want to give back now, too,” she says. “I want to help plan events to help build the community.”

To learn more about the LEAD program, visit