CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Bank of America announced Thursday it is investing $2.5 million to expand UNC Charlotte’s signature bridge program for historically underrepresented students and support the creation of a Community Innovation Incubator.
“Our investment will support student success and upward mobility for the Charlotte region by expanding UNC Charlotte’s signature bridge program UTOP and creating a Community Innovation Incubator for local leaders and residents to work with researchers and students to create data-driven solutions for Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity racial equity and economic opportunity initiative,” said Jenny Ward, Bank of America community relations manager.
According to a news release, the University Transition Opportunities Program powered by Bank of America will expand UNC Charlotte’s signature bridge program by an additional 300 students over a five-year period.
“As Charlotte’s only public research institution, UNC Charlotte puts access and student success at the core of our mission,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “The important work we are doing to reduce the equity gap for students is a national model, helping to create a diverse workforce for our fast-growing region.”
UTOP began in 1986, creating a path for underrepresented students to successfully transition from high school to college by providing a six-week summer collegiate experience, Bank of America staff said.
Assa Sylla is a current Bank of America employee and graduated from the university in 2021. Sylla participated in the UTOP program during the summer of 2019.
She says UTOP gave her a strong start to her college career and helped her foster valuable relationships on campus.
“With networking, a lot of the networking events helped me get my name out there and make friends, make connections. If I hadn’t done that I probably wouldn’t have been able to have these connections prior to starting college,” Sylla said.
Additionally, Bank of America and UNC Charlotte will create the Community Innovation Incubator to execute community-centric research in Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity.
According to the release, local residents and community leaders will work as peers with researchers, students, and experts to co-design data-driven solutions for the region.
Planning and development are underway for the community innovation incubator. According to the University, this program uses results-based facilitation and human design thinking to bring together working groups over a six-month to nine-month period to produce a tangible, innovative solution to a systemic issue that has been identified and driven by community leaders.
The research funded through the investment supports the scholarly mission of the University while helping to address community issues.
The bank’s $2.5 million investment aligns with many key and critical components of the university’s recently launched 10-year strategic plan to “shape what’s next” through research, teaching, leadership, and diversity and inclusion, the release stated.
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