Setting a place at the table

3M Diversity Scholarship makes CSE a compelling choice for students from underrepresented groups

The College of Science and Engineering’s quest to attract more of the brightest, most talented students from under-represented backgrounds has gotten a big boost thanks to a relatively new scholarship created by St. Paul-based 3M.

For the third consecutive year, CSE is awarding several 3M Diversity Scholarships to outstanding, STEM-inclined high school graduates making the University of Minnesota a more compelling choice for those applicants.

The $10,000-per-year scholarships—that’s $40,000 total per recipient over a four-year undergraduate career—make attending the University dramatically more affordable for hardworking students with academic promise.

Making Minnesota more attractive

The scholarship gives the University an edge in landing stellar students of color who might otherwise choose Ivy League or other prestigious institutions, said Dorothy Cheng, CSE scholarship coordinator.


“Students from underrepresented groups with the academic background to be admitted to CSE have a lot of options,” Cheng said.


“The 3M Diversity Scholarship helps us to recruit more of those students,” she added.

Diversity matters

The Diversity Scholarship doesn’t just benefit the students themselves, and make for richer, more dynamic classrooms and labs within CSE, explained Cheng. It also benefits Minnesota industry by cultivating more desirable engineers, researchers, developers, programmers, and other professionals.


“We want to increase diversity—diversity of experiences, diversity in thought, diversity of background—because we know teams that are more diverse have more ideas, they have better ideas, and they’re ultimately more profitable in industry,” Cheng explained.


Currently, just 16.8 percent of CSE students are people of color, she said, but the 3M scholarships are helping to increase that number.

“3M uses science and technology to improve lives. These scholarships provide opportunities for diverse students with a passion and talent for science to pursue a university education, regardless of background and financial resources,” said Ashish Khandpur (ChemE Ph.D. ’95), 3M’s executive vice president, Electronics and Energy Business Group.

“3M, and the world we live in,” Khandpur added, “depend on future generations of science and engineering experts who can bring different perspectives and new ways of thinking to innovate, create, and solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.”

A student-friendly process

Students from underrepresented groups who qualify for admission to CSE are evaluated for the scholarship.


“There’s no separate scholarship application for a 3M Diversity Scholarship,” Cheng explained.


For many students leaning toward the University, or even strongly considering it, the Diversity Scholarship has tipped the balance, Cheng said.

She shares a recent story about the delight of phoning one top-notch CSE applicant, a first-generation college student who had initially been offered a smaller scholarship but was still struggling to figure out how to finance his college education.

“After a few Diversity Scholarship winners declined our offer, I was able to call him to tell him we could offer a larger scholarship. I said, ‘We can give you $10,000 a year.’ His mom started crying, they were so happy,” Cheng recalls. “It was a pretty dramatic phone call.”

He started his freshman year this past fall.

An infographic with three cancer facts

In 2015-16, the first year of the program, 10 students were awarded the 3M scholarship. That year, it was only open to students pursuing majors in chemistry, chemical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Realizing that many students change majors after their first year, 3M has opened it up to all qualifying applicants regardless of their major.

“It’s better that they decided not to limit it,” Cheng said.


“You just have to be interested in studying science and engineering,” Cheng said, of the 3M Diversity Scholarship.


In its second year, the program increased to support 20 students, and this year 3M awarded 31 scholarships. 3M continues to expand the number of Diversity Scholarship recipients annually.

Over the next five years, 60 incoming students—12 each year—will receive 3M scholarships.

“The most important factor for an incoming freshman is finances,” Cheng said. “This is a really nice way to encourage exceptional students to choose CSE.”

The following stories illustrate how the 3M Diversity Scholarship helped three students of color choose to attend the University of Minnesota.

Emma Grant: Self-proclaimed math nerd

Avery Loya: Aspiring chemical engineer

Devin Dykes: Ecologically minded researcher

Story by Susan Maas

If you’d like to support University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering students, visit our CSE Giving website.