Alumni Association of the University of Michigan Announces $30 Million Expansion of Diversity Scholarship Program

April 25, 2017

LEAD Scholarship a Solution by Alumni to Create More Opportunity at the Top 10 University.

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan is investing in diversity by expanding its LEAD merit scholarship for underrepresented minority students by $30 million.

Since 2006, underrepresented minority enrollment at U-M has declined 11 percent and by 50 percent among African-American students. That year, Michigan voters approved Proposal 2, which prohibits public universities and colleges from considering race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin in admissions and the financial aid process. As an independent nonprofit that supports the University of Michigan, the Alumni Association was able to develop the Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Diversity (LEAD) Scholarship Program in 2008 to bolster minority enrollment and improve access to opportunity.

“Diversity makes for a better university, in every facet, which is why we felt that tripling our LEAD scholarship fund was the right thing to do,” said Steve Grafton, president of the Alumni Association. “Not only does a diverse student population help minority students feel more welcome on campus, it teaches all students the value of engaging with people of all creeds and cultures. Diversity is a primary tenant of U-M’s principles and one we are dedicated to improving for years to come.”

LEAD cohort sizes have fluctuated since the program enrolled its first 22 students in 2008. The Alumni Association is currently establishing a $10 million fund and will increase it by committing another $10 million immediately from its endowment. In addition, it will campaign to raise another $10 million in a one-to-one match for gifts of more than $50,000. With a full $30 million LEAD scholarship fund, it is the Alumni Association’s goal to award up to 75 LEAD scholars per year by 2021.

“This is the strongest match of any fund-raising and scholarship effort at the Alumni Association, and the endowment allows the LEAD Program to drive impact in perpetuity,” said Ralph Johnson, chairman of the association’s board of directors. “We can’t wait, and we can’t move slowly. The statistics are staggering, and these students will increasingly become underrepresented on campus. There is a pressing need to have the full $30 million fund activated and to get scholarships in the hands of more underrepresented minority students at U-M.”

LEAD will grant $5,000 to $15,000 per year, per student. To be eligible for a LEAD scholarship, a student must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; have African-American, Latino or Native American heritage; have been accepted as a full-time, undergraduate student at U-M; possess a high school grade-point average of 3.5 or higher; and have an SAT score of 1220 or higher or ACT score of 27 or higher.

Since the program’s inception, the Alumni Association has awarded 288 LEAD scholarships; 21 percent of recipients were the first in their families to attend college. LEAD scholars enter U-M with an average GPA of 3.8 and have a 97 percent graduation rate, compared with 84 percent university-wide for underrepresented minority students. Of the LEAD scholars accepted last year, 28 were from Michigan. Forty-eight percent of current scholars are in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, and 37.5 percent currently enrolled have a 3.5 GPA or higher.

Although the $30 million commitment to LEAD will make strides in increasing representation of minority students on U-M’s campus, the demand remains high. Last year, there were 560 qualified applicants for just 50 spots.

“It’s promising to see a high level of underrepresented minority students that value and seek the excellent education offered at U-M,” said Grafton. “Our job is to remain steadfast in our ingenuity and commitment to creating solutions that help these students more easily access that opportunity.”

The program also includes access to peer and alumni mentors, professional development resources and internships. It boasts a social component that unites the LEAD scholars and creates friendships and connections that last long after the students leave U-M.

“One thing that makes LEAD unique is the level of programming and engagement with alumni and donors who are completely invested, not only in the students’ success at Michigan, but also personally and professionally,” said Ayanna McConnell, the Alumni Association’s senior director for university relations and student engagement. “This program attracts a high percentage of STEM students, as well as students interested in graduate degrees. These students are some of the country’s best and brightest.”

Monique Becker, a LEAD alumna, graduated from U-M in 2015 and landed a job at the prestigious Detroit-based real estate development firm The Platform. She says the program allowed her the chance to meet and learn from accomplished U-M alumni, helping to set her up for a promising career.

“I realized I wanted to diverge from my original plan of working internationally, instead committing myself to better understanding my birthplace, Detroit,” Becker said. “I am incredibly fortunate to have been guided by the LEAD network, resulting in my connection to The Platform.”

For Rachel Sullivan, a U-M senior from Port Huron, Mich., a LEAD scholarship has helped her pursue her studies in movement science in the School of Kinesiology.

“It feels like a huge blessing, and I’m graduating debt-free,” she said. “The scholarship allowed me to be more free to choose graduate programs without thinking of debt as much.”

Sullivan called the LEAD program and the Alumni Association “hugely helpful” by providing her a job on campus and by exposing her to different experiences. “Everyone’s coming from interesting backgrounds, majors and grade levels,” she said, adding that being a LEAD scholar was “very rewarding and challenging.”

To give to the LEAD program, go to or call 734-764-3777.

# # #

The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan was formed in 1845 as an independent organization that nurtures lifelong relationships worldwide with and among current and future Michigan alumni. It has a 75-member team with approximately 100,000 members, along with 63 clubs nationally and over 25 international communities, engaging over 575,000 alumni globally.

As a committed partner of the university, the Alumni Association offers programs and services of relevance to alumni and creates support for the university. Underlying all that the association does is the belief in the value of education to the well-being of society and a commitment to integrity, diversity and service.

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Michigan Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit