McCombs MBA graduate creates Pay It Forward scholarship for incoming MBA students

Lauren Abel

The Pay It Forward scholarship for incoming Master of Business Administration students aims to help MBA students struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developed by MBA graduate Gbenoba Idah, the Pay It Forward MBA scholarship is a nonprofit organization established in March that provides financial aid to business students across the country. Idah said he was inspired to create the scholarship after his study abroad in Barcelona was cut short because of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was in the airport in Barcelona checking LinkedIn and the McCombs Slack, and a lot of people were saying how students for the incoming class weren’t going to go to business school because they were afraid it was going to be all virtual,” Idah said.
Idah said he wanted to help incoming MBA students who would be negatively affected by online courses. 
After three months, Idah raised almost $25,000 to award to 14 students. Idah said the unanticipated success of his efforts and his experience as a minority in business led to the development of four categories for scholarship recipients to serve a diverse group of students. The categories include a student who identifies as a woman, a student who is interested in venture capital or private equity, a United States active duty military servicemember or U.S. veteran, and a student with financial need.  
“Being involved in the Graduate Women in Business, you see how difficult it is for women in business in general,” Idah said. “Companies aren’t necessarily gender equal, and even in business school we don’t have a 50/50 split in terms of the seats that are taken by women.”

Scholarship committee member Katherine Rowe said she assisted Idah in the development of the scholarship after they met during their time in the MBA program. 
“It started out with a really small goal that (Idah) had, with just giving one small scholarship, and it expanded into this fund that way surpassed what he had imagined,” MBA graduate student Rowe said. 
MBA graduate student Lauren Roche was one of the largest donors and assisted in gathering funds for students interested in venture capital and private equity. Roche said there are large barriers to entry in the industry, so helping alleviate the financial burden could further encourage students.
Idah said $20,000 came from UT affiliates, including current students, faculty and staff. Seventy percent of those affiliates were from McCombs, he said.
“I thought at most I would get $10,000,” Idah said. “But I never thought I would get $25,000 in three months.”
Idah said he plans to continue the scholarship for the incoming class of 2023 and future classes for as long as he can. 
“For the class of 2022 there were 14 recipients, but for the class of 2023 there will be maybe 20 recipients,” Idah said. “It just depends on our fundraising.”