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Prosperity Fellowship program welcomes new name, students, funding

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published May 14, 2015

“The Prosperity Fellowship program is important because it inspires some of our brightest students with a sense of optimism, responsibility and ownership of Buffalo, and encourages them to make the revitalization of our region their own.”
Andrew Stott, dean of undergraduate education

The Western New York Prosperity Fellowship continues to grow, awarding a record class of 34 UB scholars, as well as transitioning from a scholarship to fellowship program.

The program, sponsored by the Prentice Family Foundation, also increased its support of UB fellows through a new $50,000 annual enrichment fund, which will open up networking and development opportunities for students by allowing them to attend conferences and workshops they otherwise could not afford.

The fellowship is the largest annual gift given to UB, amassing more than $500,000 per year to support undergraduate and graduate students who are committed to improving the Western New York community after graduation through economic development or job creation.

“UB is a powerhouse of thought and invention,” says Andrew Stott, dean of undergraduate education. “We graduate thousands of dynamic and creative young people every year, talent that can go anywhere in the world and become successful. But what a shame to see such talent leave when Western New York is enjoying such a resurgence.

“That’s why the Prosperity Fellowship program is so important,” he says, “because it inspires some of our brightest students with a sense of optimism, responsibility and ownership of Buffalo, and encourages them to make the revitalization of our region their own.”

The fellowship — which named 16 new fellows and 18 returning students — is open to all undergraduates of at least junior standing with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Eligible graduate programs include those in the School of Management, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and School of Architecture and Planning. Graduate students are required to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA.

The benefits for each scholar include:

  • A renewable, needs-based fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year of up to $25,000.
  • Financial support for a summer internship at a Western New York business.
  • A personal mentor from the business community.
  • Membership to Buffalo Niagara 360, a young professionals program that helps members develop leadership skills and build stronger networks.

The program has more than 80 alumni, including Eben Piazza, Buffalo chapter director of Startup Grind, a monthly entrepreneurial speaker series.

This year’s fellows range from Emily Brooks, a Kenmore native and biomedical engineering doctoral candidate who hopes to start her own company that designs orthopedic devices, to Rachel Stern, an East Amherst native working toward a JD and MBA who was inspired by an AmeriCorps volunteer experience at Bennett High School to shift her focus from international human rights to problems facing thousands of Buffalonians.

“I realized that before trying to save the world, we should try tackling the issues in our backyard,” says Stern.

For a full directory of Prosperity Scholars, including photos, career aspirations and personal information, click here.

This year, UB also will host a new fellowship weekend with the Canisius College Prosperity Fellowship program before the start of the fall 2015 semester at Beaver Hollow Conference Center. The retreat will allow scholars to meet and foster connections with other students in the program.

“The part of the program I’ve appreciated the most was meeting an interdisciplinary group of students,” says Brooks. “Even though we all have unique backgrounds, we were still able to work together and encourage each other.”

Matthew Rivera, a rising junior with a dual major in musical theater and business administration, also was inspired by his fellow scholars to join the movement behind Buffalo’s resurgence.

Rivera, originally from Germany, has performed and directed throughout Germany and the United Kingdom, and views the area’s budding theater scene as the future home of the theater company he plans to create.

“The first thing that attracted me to the community is the people who really do care. This city is steaming with people who want to improve it,” says Rivera. “Buffalo is booming, and this fellowship means I can keep that going.”