Following the death of 46-year-old George Perry Floyd Jr. in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25th, 2020, the nation and the entire world began calling for a change in the way African Americans and other minorities are treated by law enforcement and in general. It was an eye-opening experience for many that demonstrated that racism still exists in our country and reminds us that we’re all responsible, regardless of our race, ethnicity, or background, for doing something to fix it.
While there are many causes of prejudice and discrimination against people of color, it is believed that much of this problem could be resolved through education. Education can help bring an end to the intergenerational poverty that has often put people of color on the wrong side of the law and encouraged others to develop prejudices against them. Education can teach us all more about our own inherent biases and how we can fight back against them. Education also teaches us how to argue our points of view in a civilized manner and how to reach other people with our voices.
At Floyd’s funeral, Dr. Scott Hagan, President of North Central University, announced a scholarship in George Floyd’s honor to help end intergenerational poverty for people of color and improve equality for all. He challenged other schools to do the same, and dozens have since followed suit. The University of Minnesota is one of those schools.
Tim Kunin, the CEO of GreaterGood, approached the university hoping to contribute to a scholarship at the school in George Floyd’s name. The university worked with Kunin and other donors to create one combined high-impact scholarship for “undergraduate students whose identities are underrepresented at the University of Minnesota.”
“GreaterGood was the very first partner who said, ‘We want to make a stand and want to make a difference,’” recalls Michelle Lian-Anderson, Chief Development Officer of University-Wide Scholarships at the University of Minnesota Foundation.
“As a company, we believe that education is the best way to fight intergenerational poverty, so it was an honor to follow George Floyd’s family’s suggestion and memorialize Mr. Floyd’s life by enriching the lives of others in his adopted home,” says Kunin. “We have a long-term connection to education and fully fund the upper school in Matenwa, Haiti (where we award scholarships in honor of our long-term employees); we also provide food for all the refugee boarding school students run by the Mae Tao Clinic in rural Thailand and Burma.”
Kunin himself has a strong personal connection to George Floyd’s tragic death. “I was born on 28th and Chicago, 10 blocks north of where George Floyd Jr, was killed and grew up and went to school in South Minneapolis near 50th, about a mile further south,” he says. “I was born on the 90th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, but the legacy of that conflict and America’s original sin of slavery is still with us, as events over the last year have made clear.”
Creating the scholarship and working through all the kinks and details of the process hasn’t been a smooth ride for the university. Lian-Anderson says the school was sort of “thrust onto the national stage” when George Floyd was killed in their city, but they’ve done their best to react appropriately and create a scholarship that “honor[s] this moment in time and this terrible tragedy and ha[s] something good come out of it.”
Luckily, according to Amy Sitze, Manager of University-wide content strategy at University of Minnesota Foundation, the school has experienced an outpouring of support and a general “What can we do to help?” attitude from their community. With the help of students, community members, and donors, the university has been able to create a scholarship that will enhance the school’s diversity, improve equality for minority students, and make the entire community proud.
After university leaders developed the scholarship, they brought in students to hear their opinions about what could be improved so that the scholarship could be as beneficial as possible. Now, they believe, they’ve got a program that’s going to make a big impact not only on the scholarship recipients but also on other students who have experienced social injustice. The scholarship represents the value the university and its donors place on justice and equality for minorities.
This year, the scholarship was awarded to two students—one chosen from the main Twin Cities campus and one chosen from among the other four smaller UMN campuses, in this case, the health sciences campus in Rochester. In the future, the school hopes to award the scholarship to at least two students per year, but the exact number may depend on future donations.
If you are a student currently attending or planning to attend UMN and you believe your identity is underrepresented there, look for the scholarship application process to open up in March 2021 for the fall 2021/spring 2022 school year.
Black lives matter. GreaterGood joins the world in grieving over the senseless murder of George Floyd and so many other people of color. We denounce these acts of violence, and we recognize that structural racism and other systemic inequities are tightly woven into the fabric of our society. All the causes we support—including education, literacy, food insecurity, healthcare, disaster response, environmental justice, and animal welfare—are impacted by social inequalities that create an opportunity gap in the United States and worldwide.
It is GreaterGood’s honor and privilege to be one of the primary partners involved in creating this scholarship for underrepresented students at the University of Minnesota. In memory of George Floyd and as a demonstration of our commitment to social justice, we are matching all contributions to the U of M Scholarship in honor of George Floyd up to $100,000 over the next four years.
“Helping to fund the George Perry Floyd Jr. Scholarship at the University of Minnesota was a way to make our commitment to social justice and education closer to home, literally within walking distance,” says Kunin. “This is not a cure to racism and racial injustice, but it is an acknowledgment that more effort is needed. We will continue to try to provide more opportunities to people of color from Minneapolis, because it is our mutual hometown.”
Thank you to all those who have helped make this scholarship possible. Please click here if you would like to read more about the scholarship or make a donation.