Washington Duke Scholars Program Gets Support from Coca-Cola Foundation

The Washington Duke Scholars Program, designed to encourage access and improve the experience of first-generation students from under-resourced high schools, has received a $100,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation.

Duke’s program began this year with 30 undergraduates who received a loan-free financial aid package for four years.  The scholarship also includes additional initiatives designed to promote student success, such as a summer academic experience to help students transition to college. Extensive faculty and peer mentoring and programming are provided to support both personal and professional development across all four years at Duke.

“Philanthropic support is helping make this important program possible,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. “Early positive feedback makes us eager to expand the program to 60 students next year.”  

Duke’s program fit the mission of the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship program, which was created more than 20 years ago to encourage colleges to do more for students who are the first in their immediate families to go to college.

“We see it as a key contributor to socioeconomic development, and we encourage and support educational programs for students of all ages, nationalities and ethnicities, and those in need of financial assistance,” said Lori Billingsley, vice president of community relations for The Coca-Cola Company.

The Washington Duke Scholars program was the reason Lorayna Hinton, from Savannah, GA, considered applying to Duke. “The fact that Duke was able to recognize the potential in students coming from difficult situations and high schools that have limited resources really resonated with me,” Hinton said. “It’s incredible to be here. I’m excited to be around new kinds of people I’ve never been around before.”

This past summer, scholars lived together in Jarvis residence hall and took the same credit-bearing class, From Data to Insight: The Use of Statistics and Writing in Public Health Research,  co-taught by Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel, director of undergraduate studies in Duke’s statistics department, and Adrienne Morgan from the Thompson Writing Program.

The program, run as a collaboration between the Office for Access and Support and the Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows, also introduced the inaugural class to the larger Durham community through visits to the Durham Performing Arts Center, area museums and Jordan Lake. It also helped students get to know each other, as well as advisors and support staff in offices around campus, before school started.

“They learned they have each other and they have more confidence,” said Justin Clapp, director of the Office of Access and Outreach and the Washington Duke Scholars Program.