Building Great Futures Close to Home

New class of Trustees’ Scholars set out to make their mark
trustees scholars gathered with trustees and faculty at welcome reception

They’re the kind of students in demand at prestigious universities across the country. High school class presidents, A+ scholars, National Honor Society members, committed volunteers. These multi-talented young people combined top high school grades with success in athletics, arts, debate, music and other extracurricular activities. They have chosen to launch their futures at UMKC.

These students are UMKC Trustees’ Scholars, who will have their four years of college fully funded by civic leaders who will also provide them with invaluable mentorship, access, networking and experiential learning opportunities.

Trustee Donna Ward, chair of the group’s scholarship committee, said this year’s cohort of seven students was selected from a pool of about 200 applicants.

“They are the best of the best,” Ward said. 

Larry Smith, from St. Louis, didn’t know Kansas City very well, but came away from a visit convinced that UMKC was right for him.

“There’s not a lot of diversity where I’m from,” he said. “I thought I would enjoy being with the wide variety of people here.”

For Elliott Smith of Parkville, the university’s urban environment is a major advantage.

“There are lots of opportunities to explore the city, and the network that the university can provide.”

Taylor Trudell of Knob Noster said UMKC was her first-choice school well before learning she had won the coveted scholarship. “I think the mentorship and the opportunities to learn how to handle yourself in professional situations is really the cream of the crop from this scholarship.”

When Judy Batts of Kansas City got word about the scholarship while at Raytown High School, “I just started crying. I never thought that I could get access to all these opportunities.”

The UMKC Board of Trustees is a nonprofit organization established by civic and community leaders to support the university. Their mission is to strengthen Kansas City’s future by advocating for and supporting UMKC and its students. Since 2001, the Trustees have sponsored the Trustees’ Scholars Program, which provides high-achieving students from our region with a fully funded educational and experiential program, worth more than $60,000 over four years.

Each scholar is individually mentored during their four years by a UMKC Trustee. The program gives students access to the Trustees’ knowledge, experience and network, as well as specialized guidance from key UMKC staff. Today, more than 120 program alumni are making their marks as business and civic leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals in healthcare, entertainment and law.

Meet the 2022 incoming class of UMKC Trustees’ Scholars.

Judy Batts’ goal is to become a genetic counselor and use that skill to bridge the large existing gaps in health care access and outcomes. 

Intended Major: Biology with double minors in Spanish and Chemistry

Hometown/High School: Kansas City, Missouri; Raytown High School

Trustee Mentor: Jay Kim


Mauricio Bernal intends to become an engineer focused on mentoring the next generation. “I want to give back to my community by sharing my experiences with students in the Kansas City area that have a similar background as me. I greatly benefitted from having mentors that looked like me and shared similar experiences, and I value giving that back to the next generation.”

Intended Major: Civil Engineering

Hometown/High School: Kansas City, Kansas; Wyandotte High School

Trustee Mentor: Gabe Hernandez


Chinecherem Ihenacho plans to become an addiction psychiatrist in the UMKC School of Medicine and open clinics in both the U.S. and Nigeria “where people won’t be turned away because of money.”

Intended Major: Psychology (pre-med)

Hometown/High School: Raytown, Missouri; Raytown South High School

Trustee Mentor: Dana Nelson


Vari Patel will pursue an MBA and a law degree after graduation, to prepare for a career as an international corporate lawyer – and a seat in the U.S. Senate representing Missouri. She has already become founder and first president of a new campus student organization, Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda.

Intended Major: Finance with a minor in International Affairs

Hometown/High School: Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Blue Springs South

Trustee Mentor: Suzanne Shank


Elliott Smith is mapping out a future in urban affairs, “working in a city hall and having a direct impact on municipal priorities or coming up with ideas to better equip communities for future endeavors.”

Intended Major: Urban Planning + Design

Hometown/High School: Parkville, Missouri; Park Hill South High School

Mentor: Bob Strom


Larry Smith intends to be a dentist with his own practice, that “provides quality care in a positive and family-oriented environment.”

Intended Major: Biology (pre-dental)

Hometown/High School: St. Louis, Missouri; Lindbergh High School

Trustee Mentor: Emmet Pierson


Taylor Trudell is studying Environmental Science to prepare for a career with the EPA or as a natural resource specialist for the U.S. Forest Service.

Intended Major: Environmental Science, minor in Studio Art

Hometown/High School: Knob Noster, Missouri; Knob Noster High School

Trustee Mentor: Patti Phillips

Published: Aug 31, 2022

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