There are currently more than 1,400 student groups and organizations at U-M, involving everything from peer support groups to hip-hop dance troupes. Extracurricular activities shape a student’s college experience just as much as their school work, providing meaningful experiences and social outlets. Many students, however, cannot participate due to financial difficulty. When not studying, they have little choice but to work to stay in college.
Central Student Government (CSG) President David Schafer and Vice President Micah Griggs (both seniors), decided to help, realizing that students with financial burdens were missing out on leadership opportunities.
Thanks to a partnership developed by CSG, the newly created Leadership Engagement Scholarship will launch in September 2017. It aims to help remove income barriers for around 15 students next year, enabling them to participate in extracurricular activities. Michigan Alumnus intern, Anna Haritos, recently caught up with David and Micah to discuss how they hope the scholarship will help their peers.
What was the driving inspiration behind the scholarship, what got the ball rolling?
Micah Griggs: People were applying to our executive team at CSG and asking if the positions were paid. We had to say no and then saw that they could not participate. They had to work a job on the side, pay their way through school, and couldn’t give up the time.
David Schafer: We know how much we’ve benefited from the work that we do outside of the classroom. Regardless of background, students should have the ability to benefit from the same opportunities we have been afforded. My Michigan experience has been fundamentally shaped and defined by my time in CSG and other organizations. It’s just our deeply rooted unwavering hope that all students have the opportunity to shape their Michigan experience by the work they do outside the classroom.
How did you make this idea a reality?
DS: We’ve been working very closely with both U-M Development and Student Life. They have been supportive, incredible partners. That’s not to say that going forward we might not face our fair share of obstacles, but I think that we are in a great place right now and that’s owing to the support of the incredible people on and beyond this campus.
MG: In the initial stage we hope to fund 10-15 students. But 10-15 years from now would like to fund 30 students. The scholarship is for any student organization on campus. Anyone can apply who is interested in a registered student organization. We’re talking about student organizations from CSG to Black Student Union to Halal to Musket- it’s really a diverse and equitable scholarship for all students.
In your mission statement one of your aims is to help make organizations more diverse. How will the scholarship do that?
DS: We know that some organizations require their members to pay dues. That naturally restricts which type of students can join. Reducing and breaking down those barriers will naturally bring a more diverse group of students into each organization.
MG: We hope that it can grow so we can create a diverse community of leaders.
DS: Another core foundation of the scholarship is developing a mentorship program, and that program would really bring scholarship recipients together within the cohort. They would be encouraged to use their organizations as a vehicle for collaboration. It would enhance cross student and cross organizational collaboration. I think organizations are an incubator for connections, personal development, and the advancement of diversity.
What kind of support would you appreciate from the U-M community?
DS: Any amount of contribution to the fund is incredibly meaningful to us and will go a long way in advancing our efforts. We hope that students, alumni, everyone will get involved. It can be as simple as sharing their story, reaching out to some friends and family members or even possibly donating some money. What makes this scholarship unique is the critical nature of student engagement. The scholarship is initiated and led by students. We also hope it’s advanced with students funding the scholarship.
Read more about the scholarship here: https://studentlife.umich.edu/article/leadership-engagement-scholarship
Anna Haritos is a junior studying modern Greek, biopsychology cognition and neuroscience, and American history at U-M.