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Black Alumni of Notre Dame expand Frazier Thompson scholarship

| Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Earlier this month, the University and the association of Black Alumni of Notre Dame (BA of ND) announced the expansion of the Frazier Thompson scholarship.

Named after Notre Dame’s first African American graduate, the scholarship has provided over $660,000 to 395 students over the past 34 years, according to the University. 

Before its expansion, the Frazier Thompson scholarship was a series of four grants distributed between study abroad, undergraduate and graduate research, professional development assistance and financial aid.

Vice chair of the 2020-2021 BA of ND board, Jimmy Rayford, spoke about the decision to make these expansions.

“We wanted to do something bigger,” Rayford said. “We felt that we had the funding to introduce some more scholarships that were more expansive.”

The Merit Scholarship was the first new scholarship redesigned by the BA of ND, in conjunction with the Office of Financial Aid, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, Office of Undergraduate Admissions and others. The Frazier Thompson Merit Scholars will be part of the Notre Dame Scholars’ Program.

“We wanted to use that one to help attract candidates,” Rayford said.

The Merit Scholarship has already been awarded to two members of the incoming class of 2025.

“Once we got the ball rolling on that one,” Rayford said, “we just started considering, ‘Are there other student populations that we’re missing?’”

In light of this question, the BA of ND established the Diversity Exemplar Scholarship — a merit-based award for upperclassmen — and the Community Empowerment Scholarship — a need-based scholarship also for upperclassmen.

“We felt that we had a suite of scholarships that could support and acknowledge different parts of the student population … students who have shown an interest in a contribution to the African diaspora and who look forward to continue to do so,” Rayford said.

Rayford said that recipients of the scholarships have expressed gratitude for the interest and support of the BA of ND.

“What we want to accomplish with the scholarship is so closely aligned with what our prospective students are already doing and what they’re interested in,” Rayford said.

According to Rayford, the BA of ND hopes to continue expanding the scholarships through increased funding from the University Development Office and more donations from Black alumni. The BA of ND, he said, is hopeful that positive attention surrounding the scholarships will encourage more donations.

Rayford emphasized the collaborative work that has gone into the process of revamping and expanding the Frazier Thompson scholarship, between the board of the BA of ND, other Black alumni, the Office of Financial Aid and Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS).

He also said all parties are excited about the new direction of the scholarship and are “particularly looking forward to seeing the recipients of these new scholarships and what it will mean to them.” 

Ultimately, the scholarships are intended to enhance the experience of Black students on campus and further cultural diversity and its benefits at the University.

“We’re using the scholarships as a mechanism to support the mission [of the BA of ND],” Rayford said.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misstated the purpose of the Frazier Thompson scholarship and the partners of the new merit scholarship. The Observer regrets these errors.

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