University of Rochester

Kearns Center Programs

Pre-College Programs

College Programs

Graduate Programs


David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering

Kearns Center Programs: Fast Facts 2011


The David T. Kearns Center at the University of Rochester partners with the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Xerox Corporation, the Ford Foundation, and a host of private donors to promote the successful engagement of a diverse student body in higher education. Through the Kearns Center, Arts, Sciences and Engineering provides a wide array of services and financial support to low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students throughout the educational pipeline. The Center provides scholarship and academic support to undergraduate men and women pursuing baccalaureate degrees, provides outreach and support to local high school students, engages middle schools students in entrepreneurial education at Thomas Jefferson High School, prepares college students for successful entry into and completion of doctoral programs, and engages in institutional research to provide a richer understanding of the needs and experiences of a diverse student body. The central focus of all of the work of the Center is the creation of replicable, scalable educational models that will increase the number of low-income and historically underrepresented individual pursuing undergraduate, graduate and professional education.

Pre-College Programs and Support

Merchants of Hope,” a partnership between the University of Rochester and Thomas Jefferson High School, creates an integrated and comprehensive curriculum—an entire learning environment—for 7th through 12th grade students that builds on and reflects the concepts and practices of entrepreneurship.  The partnership seeks to transform learning in all subjects to help students understand themselves as free agents who have the capacity, and the right, to build enterprises and to create the world in which they want to live.  Through entrepreneurship, TJHS students and University of Rochester students, faculty and staff understand learning as a form of freedom rather than conformity, a means of self-actualization rather than compliance. Merchants of Hope brings together middle and high school students with university students, faculty and staff for mentoring, tutoring and cross-cultural programming. Students from TJHS annually spend their first day of school at the university as well as engage in university competitions, educational forums and student programming throughout the year. Both teachers and staff from the school can attend university classes’ tuition free. Students who enroll at the university are provided with 3/4 tuition scholarships.  The program thus aims to transform Jefferson High School’s educational culture, to invigorate and strengthen the environment for learning, and to help students see higher education as a natural part of their futures.

Harley Horizons connection:  The Harley School is a local private school that provides a summer academic experience for children in the Rochester City School District.  In past years, we invited students and parents, as well as the administrators of this program, to attend a college tour and informational session regarding Upward Bound.  We are developing a fuller partnership, for example, so that those students who participate in Harley Horizons and meet the eligibility criteria for Upward Bound will be able to participate.

Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math/Science Programs: The Upward Bound Classic and Upward Bound Math/Science programs assist low-income, potential first generation college students who are enrolled in the Rochester City School District in becoming the first members of their families to attend college. Serving a total of 100 students, the programs run year round, preparing children to succeed in high school, apply and gain admission to college with a special focus on math/science programs, and receive strong financial aid packages. Activities take place in their home high schools, at the University of Rochester, after school, on some weekends, and during the summer. Students apply as ninth graders and remain in the program until they graduate from high school.  Currently, the programs work with students enrolled at Thomas Jefferson High School, Wilson Foundation and Commencement Academies, Edison Technical High School, East High School, and Franklin High School. During the academic year and six-week summer enrichment program students come to campus to increase their understanding of, and access to, higher education with every student making the commitment to apply, enroll and graduate from college. Students are provided SAT preparation and academic coursework in writing, math, science, civics, and art, which support their classroom learning. Upward Bound Classic and Upward Bound Math/Science are funded through the US Department of Education’s TRIO Programs.

College Prep Center at East High School: Begun as a pilot in 2010-2011, the College Prep Center at East is an attempt to create a college-going culture throughout the building in the Rochester City School District’s largest high school.  Through a generous gift from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, we have been able to hire a full time employee and host two AmeriCorps members, who have staffed the Center fulltime effective August 1, 2011. Our goal is to transform the idea of college as unreachable to college as accessible, and positively impact the retention and graduation rates at this school. 

College-level Support

The Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program: The goal of the McNair Program is to increase the numbers of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students who pursue the doctoral degree, with the long-term goal of helping to diversify the nation’s college and university faculty and researchers.  The program provides intensive advising and academic support, as well as a mentored research opportunity, the opportunity to travel to research conferences, and a myriad of other supports that help students achieve their academic potential.  Since the program’s inception at UR in 1992, the program has served over 400 students, with approximately 80% enrolling in graduate study within two years of earning their bachelor’s degrees.  As a comparison, the average graduate school attendance for McNair scholars nationally is just under 45%.  

Kearns Scholars: Our endowment funding allows up to provide small scholarships for students, which are used to meet unmet financial need or to reduce loan or work study burdens. The Kearns Center currently supports 60 undergraduate students, sophomores through seniors. Students who are in the program are retained in STEM at substantially higher rates than non-participants, and over half enroll in graduate study.  Kearns Scholars also earn higher grades in their first and second year science courses, and withdraw from those courses much less frequently, than historically is true of similar students.  Scholarship recipients participate in a series of workshops throughout the academic year, which explore ongoing research projects conducted at the College and Medical Center, students’ career goals, and the balance between academic and social expectations. In addition to these discussions, Kearns Scholars work with Center staff to develop summer research and internship applications, consider graduate school opportunities, and prepare for graduate school entrance exams. Summer support is provided for those students wishing to take course at UR, or to participate in a UR-approved summer study abroad experience. Additionally, all Center students are able to apply for Center travel grants, which fund trips to professional conferences, research presentations, and graduate programs. All Center activities have the goal of educational and career exploration and preparation.

Chemistry initiative:  The Kearns Center has partnered with the Office of Minority Student Affairs and the Department of Chemistry to provide enhanced academic support services to low-income, first-generation and underrepresented minority students planning to major in a science or engineering discipline.  We have jointly designed intensive small group workshops, led by hand-picked graduate students, for students in introductory chemistry courses.

Science Technology Expansion Program (NSF-STEP): This National Science Foundation funding supports our ECO and chemistry initiative efforts, and provides funding for students to take science courses in the summer.

Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students (NSF-STEM): This National Science Foundation program helps fund our scholarships for Kearns Scholars, augmenting the support provided by the endowment.

Xerox Engineering Fellows: Supported by a generous donation from the Xerox Corporation, this program provides research funding for engineering students between their junior and senior years, followed by continued research under the direction of the same faculty mentor during the senior year.  Xerox Fellows also receive assistance in the process of applying for graduate school or for placement with industry.

Research:  Understanding the necessity for evidence-based programs, Center staff work on assessment and data collection, utilizing both longitudinal and comparative research to augment our understanding of the experiences of our undergraduate students.

Graduate Level Programs

Graduate Visitation Program: In September 2010, we hosted our second annual Graduate Visitation Program (GVP). We received close to sixty applications, which brought to campus twenty-one low-income, first-generation college, and underrepresented minority students who were starting their graduate school search and considering applying to the University of Rochester. Participants came from eighteen different undergraduate institutions, including University of California, Berkeley, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Purdue University, and the University of Puerto Rico, and were planning to enroll in doctoral programs in fields such as brain and cognitive sciences, political science, biomedical engineering, nursing, and many others.

This year we yielded seven applications and three offers were made from this pool. At the time of printing one offer was accepted. Maria Abreu-Sepulveda (University of Puerto Rico) was the first GVP participant to accept an offer and she will be completing a PhD in material science starting Fall 2011.

Over the past two years, we have hosted a total of thirty-five prospective students, received fourteen applications and made five offers. The average GPA for participants is 3.6 with 64% of the students identifying as underrepresented minorities, 65% identifying as low-income, 89% identifying as first-generation college students, and 61% of the participants interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. We are currently gearing up for our 2011 GVP program that will take place September 22-24, 2011.

“The University exceeded my expectations when I visited. The program was very effective in giving us a lot of helpful information. I really enjoyed being able o personally talk with the faculty about their research. It was also helpful in learning information about the University as a whole and the graduate admissions process.” – Fall 2010 GVP participant

Visiting Dissertation Scholarship: The goal of the Northeast Consortium for Faculty Diversity is to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties. The Consortium’s three objectives are to maximize the educational benefits of diversity; to increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students; and, to enhance opportunities for academic careers to persons underrepresented in the professoriate and persons who have demonstrated a commitment to the elimination of racial disparities in the academy.

As part of the Northeast Consortium for Faculty Diversity, the Center manages the competition for the Visiting Dissertation Scholarship, offered as a means of adding diversity to our academic departments while providing mentoring and financial support to a scholar in the final stages of completion of the doctoral degree. Since 2008, Arts, Sciences and Engineering has hosted five scholars. In 2010-11, Sara Luna was hosted by the Department of Anthropology.  In the upcoming year, Cara Jones will be joining the Department of Political Science.

National GEM Consortium: The University of Rochester has been a member of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM), a non-profit organization that provides science and engineering fellowships to minority students pursuing graduate degrees, since 2009. GEM is a consortium of universities and corporations that builds a strong support system for students pursuing advanced degrees. As GEM Fellows, students have access to internship opportunities with corporations including Eastman Kodak, Corning, Bausch & Lomb, and Exxon Mobil, among others. In addition, GEM Fellows receive a stipend while attending graduate school, which is supplemented by member universities. Students who enroll at the University of Rochester attend tuition-free.

This year Donald Mitchell served as our University GEM Representative.  This included him actively marketing to GEM Fellowship applicants; passing along information on all GEM Fellowship applicants to every STEM department, along with tips on recruitment and follow-up; attending a GEM GRAD Lab, a symposium to encourage underrepresented minority students to consider graduate school in STEM fields, with University of Rochester students; and, serving as a judge on the GEM Fellowship Judging Committee.

In the 2010-11 academic year we received 12 applications from students who completed the GEM Fellowship application and we made four offers. At the time of printing, none of the students who were made offers had been awarded the GEM Fellowship or accepted our offer.

Graduate Recruitment: This year we were joined by Donald Mitchell as Graduate Recruitment and Retention Specialist, with responsibility for substantially increasing the pool of underrepresented minority, first-generation college, and low-income students applying to graduate programs in Arts, Sciences and Engineering (AS&E). Below is an overview of our recruitment initiatives and achievements for the 2010-11 academic year.

Educational Testing Services: In 2010-11, Beth Olivares was selected to serve as a member of ETS’s Graduate Record Examination (GRE) board and their Minority Graduate Education Committee.

In March 2011, the Center hosted a visit from Ann-Marie Stephenson, Associate Director of Global Client Relations at Educational Testing Services (ETS), who updated Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score users on the important changes that were coming with the launch of the GRE revised General Test. Additionally, Ann-Marie shared information about the GRE Search Service, the ETS Personal Potential Index, and the TOEFL. The meetings were for graduate deans, faculty, graduate admissions staff and students University-wide and ~70 participants attended.