Welcoming the 2023 UMKC Trustees’ Scholars

Prestigious program for outstanding scholars launches college careers

The newest class of UMKC Trustees’ Scholars took their first steps toward outstanding college careers and bright futures at their welcome reception. The seven recipients were part of a pool of 200 applicants, and many will become campus leaders.

The UMKC Trustees’ Scholars Program provides a fully funded educational and experiential program for a select group of first-time students at UMKC. The scholarship is a collaboration between the university and the UMKC Trustees. The program gives students access to UMKC Trustees’ knowledge, experience and mentorship as well as specialized guidance from key UMKC staff.

UMKC Trustees Chair Debby Ballard welcomed the scholars at a reception August 18.

“The Trustees’ Scholars program is very close to my heart,” Ballard said. “I have mentored two scholars in the past, and I am currently a mentor to a scholar who is a dance major at the Conservatory. Meeting with my scholars was always inspiring. I learned a lot from their perspectives, and their optimism and enthusiasm are uplifting.”

Suzanne Shank, chair of the Trustees’ Scholars Committee, serves as a mentor.

“The scholars program is the signature program of the Trustees,” Shank said. “The students we are celebrating today were handpicked from almost 200 applicants who  represented the best of the best in our region. We know they will be extraordinary representatives of the Trustees, the program and the university.”

UMKC Provost Jennifer Lundgren welcomed the incoming scholars.

“You are now part of the Roo family,” Lundgren said. “Being a Trustees’ Scholar is an incredible and unique opportunity that few students are awarded. The connections you’ll make and the rigorous course work you will undertake, will help prepare you to shine in the careers you’ll pursue when you graduate.”

Lundgren assured the scholars’ parents that they were in the right place.

“Thank you for getting them here,” she said. “We have developed a culture of care that will help them build resilience and responsibility. I assure you, that if they need someone, I’m here.”

Each student had the opportunity to share their story of what brought them to UMKC and their aspirations.

Laila Atkins

Atkins is from Grandview and is studying political science. Driven and focused, she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to be a Trustees’ Scholar at UMKC and getting to know the other scholars. While she’s a little nervous, she’s excited to challenge herself.  Her Trustee mentor is Donald Maxwell, an attorney with his own private practice.

Maisy Blanton

Blanton is from Benton, Kansas and is studying communication and digital media, with a minor in race and gender studies. In high school, Blanton wrote an essay about being queer for Young Queer America and received pushback from the school board. She chose UMKC because of the loving and supportive atmosphere. She is preparing for a career in public relations and journalism. Her Trustee mentor is Steve Doyal, a retired executive with Hallmark Cards.

Andrew Custis

Custis is from St. Louis and is studying earth and environmental science. When he toured campus, he met faculty who had worked in Africa at Lake Chad and another who had studied volcanology and geology. “I valued the effect I could have on the world. That’s why I chose UMKC.” His Trustee mentor is Kyle Vena, vice president of new campus development with the American Royal Association.

Atlas Mallams

Mallams is from Liberty and is studying computer science with a minor in sociology. “When I visited UMKC I had a feeling of community. I felt safe and welcome. I could see the school welcomed diversity and different economic backgrounds. Also, there’s a Cheesecake Factory down the street!” Their Trustee mentor is Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, executive director and chief operating officer at the DeBruce Foundation.

Yasmina Mokhtar

Mokhtar is from Joplin and is studying sociology and Spanish. She has a small hand-embroidery business and plans to go to law school. Her family is Muslim and from Egypt, and the diversity at UMKC was appealing. “I wanted to meet other people of color,” she said. Her Trustee mentor is Heather Humphrey, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Evergy.

Alexis Reed

Reed is from Kansas City and attended school in the Center district. She is pursuing a degree in biology, with an interest in pathology; she is minoring in Spanish. She chose UMKC because she wanted to be close to her home and family. “And I love the diversity,” she said. “I like to learn about new people.” Her Trustee mentor is Joseph Reuben, chief medical officer at Menorah Medical Center.

Micaela Richards

Richards is from Lee’s Summit and is pursuing her degree in business administration, with a minor in political science. She was DECA president in high school and is proud of her work ethic. She plans to pursue a career in law. “I chose UMKC because I felt heard.” Her Trustee mentor is Donna Ward, senior vice president of the administrative services division at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

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