Established in 1984, the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program was designed to increase educational opportunities for academically talented, underrepresented students, helping create a more diverse and inclusive learning environment at the UW. It originated from the visionary mind of Mercile Lee, and as it developed, it became a part of the Mercile J. Lee Scholars Program recently named in her honor. As the founding director, Lee believed the Wisconsin Idea could create opportunities that would attract enthusiastic learners who reflect the diversity of talents, backgrounds, and experiences within and among minority groups.
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For more than 30 years, Lee created access and connections for those students to build meaningful relationships with faculty, staff, and peers. Today, this merit-based scholarship program has improved the retention rate for those involved — graduation rates have risen to 97 percent, exceeding that of the campus population as a whole.
Donations of any amount are welcomed and help provide competitive and supportive scholarships to students in the program.
There are currently 543 Mercile J. Lee Scholars on campus. More than half of the program’s graduates pursue graduate or professional degrees, and many have emerged as leaders in business, education, medicine, engineering, and other professions.
For as long as she can remember, Jada Kline ’17 wanted to be a doctor. Her mother’s third breast cancer diagnosis set Jada on a path to find a cure. After considerable research and several Big 10 campus visits, Jada decided that UW–Madison was the perfect fit. Becoming a Mercile J. Lee Scholar not only improved her financial situation, it also opened a door for Jada to connect with a smaller cohort within the larger Badger community, where she felt she could really be herself. By her sophomore year, Jada was assessing potential treatments that had been shown in the oncology lab to control risk for liver cancer development in mice. She was selected to be the student speaker for the 2017 winter commencement ceremony, addressing an audience of close to 9,000 people with a rousing speech that ended with the crowd chanting her name. Jada now works for the pharmaceutical company AbbVie and is planning to apply to medical school. Her Wisconsin Experience may have come to a close, but her success continues.
For more information about the Mercile J. Lee Scholars Program, please contact Jennie Casavant at Jennie.Casavant@supportuw.org or 1-608-308-5512.