Cigna scholarship aims to encourage more diversity in engineering

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Grace Merritt

2 min read

Cigna announced a $900,000 gift to UConn’s School of Engineering that will provide a $10,000 annual scholarship and programming support to underrepresented students majoring in computer science.

“This gift will strengthen the pipeline for students who have been historically underrepresented or marginalized in engineering,” says Dan Burkey, associate dean for undergraduate education and diversity at the School of Engineering.

The new Cigna Scholars program will provide scholarships for five freshmen each year for four years, building up to a total of 20 students in the program. That means that each student is eligible for a total of $40,000 in scholarships over the course of their four years at UConn.

In addition, Cigna, which is headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut, will provide students with professional development, including summer internships, mentoring, and advising on senior design projects.

“Gifts like this are truly impactful for students,” Burkey says. “A $40,000 scholarship over their four years at the University is a very significant portion of their cost. It means that perhaps they don’t have to take out as many loans, which puts them in a better financial position post-graduation.”

“As a fellow Husky, I’m excited to bring more talent to our company and work with UConn students to give them an in-depth look at what a technology career at Cigna can look like as we work to improve the health, well-being, and peace of mind of those we serve,” says Eric Reed ’91 (ENG), ’95 MS, Cigna’s senior vice president and chief technology officer.

Cigna’s gift also provides funding for UConn to provide programming tailored to help students develop self-confidence and leadership skills through coaching, peer mentoring, and workshops in such areas as public speaking and financial literacy.

“The program is really investing in the person and their development. It’s providing a support network to help them reach their goals,” says Stephany Santos, executive director of the engineering school’s Vergnano Institute for Inclusion.

“We want to grow and cultivate individuals to feel empowered, and to have the learning mindset to flourish,” adds Cigna’s Natasha Hepburn, director of technology leadership development. “We are excited about this scholarship because we want to make an impact. For us, it’s about the individual student – their development and their success.”

The School of Engineering seeks to partner with Connecticut companies to support students while helping companies potentially build a more representative workforce in a field traditionally dominated by white men. The Cigna program is like one Pratt & Whitney started last year that provides scholarships and program support for diverse engineering students.

“This is a significant investment by Cigna and Pratt & Whitney in the future workforce of the state,” Burkey says. “Hopefully, students will have a terrific experience and a wonderful education here at the University and then afterward remain in the state and potentially work for some of these companies.”

UConn freshmen can apply to the Cigna program this fall. They would receive the scholarship in the spring semester when the program begins.

Donate to support Vergnano Institute for Inclusion programs designed to recruit, retain, and educate a diverse group of engineering students.

Find out how your company can partner with the UConn School of Engineering by contacting Stephany Santos at [email protected].

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