[GREELEY, COLORADO] — The Stryker Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Northern Colorado, a participation-based scholarship program that serves women and transwomen from underrepresented groups, has received a $5 million donation to support the program over the next five years.
This year’s cohort is made up of a total of 80 students, 37 of whom graduate this year from numerous areas of study. The institute has served and supported a total of 476 undergraduate and graduate women since its creation in 2001 thanks to private philanthropy. Eighty-one percent of all students served by the institute graduate within three years of entering the program, and 94% graduate within four years of entering the program.
The program provides access to educational opportunities focused on identity development, social justice, leadership and mentorship; cultivating a sense of belonging through connectedness and community; empowering women through encouragement and facilitation of personal growth; and establishing a network of support through collaboration with campus and community partners.
UNC President Andy Feinstein said, “Such generosity from UNC graduates like Ronda Stryker enables students to be more successful in their academic careers at UNC and beyond. We are very grateful for our donors as their investments allow UNC to offer impactful programs like the Stryker Institute which have a significant impact on our students.”
The program prepares students to develop a leadership identity that enables them to create positive social change and advocate with purpose.
Participants in the institute also receive a $7,500 annual educational scholarship that covers their tuition and is renewable for up to four academic years with maintained eligibility in fall and spring semesters.
“As a very recent graduate, I’ve learned so much through the Stryker Institute: new concepts and ideas about justice and inclusiveness. The workshops have helped me grow as a person and dive deeper into my identities,” said Rosemarie Alarcon, a 2020 UNC graduate in Human Services with a minor in Criminal Justice. “This program has given me a sense of comfort and community over the last three years, and I’ve made lifelong friends and mentors that I will forever cherish.”
Yvette Lucero-Nguyen, the director of the institute, said that students value the experience they receive through the institute where they develop leadership skills and form a community with other members.
“In addition to the financial award, one of the things participants value the most about this experience is the sense of community they build with one another,” said Lucero-Nguyen. “Because the program runs on a cohort model, student scholars who have four years at UNC also have four years of being involved with other women and transwomen students in the institute who have both similar and different identities and experiences in which they can build on and overcome challenges together.”
Students are required to take workshops through the institute on a variety of leadership and identity-based topics. During their first year, students explore identity and social justice; their second year involves understanding intersectionality and framing their leadership identity while integrating their social justice experience; their third year involves practicing their leadership through a mentorship program with local underrepresented youth; and their fourth and final year involves engaging in a leadership capstone.
“One of the greatest values of our program is that our students have the opportunity to build community and support one another and maintain those relationships even after graduating from UNC. Building and understanding the identities that we hold as well as our connections to social justice are all integrated into leadership,” said Lucero-Nguyen. “They build that awareness together, which is one of the most important aspects of the program that our students receive.”
The Institute’s benefactor, Ronda Stryker, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, received her bachelor’s degrees in Special Education and Sociology at UNC in 1976. She founded and has supported the Stryker Institute since its creation in 2001. She envisioned her philanthropy to enable and empower women from underrepresented groups who would benefit from additional opportunities and resources.