School of Information alumni create scholarship for BIPOC students

Leena Alali, News reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the October 15 flipbook. 

School of Information alumni and Texas Exes opened a fundraiser to the public last week to create a scholarship endowment for graduate students of color in an effort to make the school more inclusive. 

The alumni’s goal is to raise $50,000 for Black, Indigenous and other communities of color, said Michelle Keba Knecht, co-leader of the fund. Keba Knecht said they hope to begin providing scholarship funds to graduate students in fall 2023.

“It’s only one piece of a much larger movement,”  Keba Knecht said. “Just offering scholarships won’t create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive atmosphere at the (School of Information), but hopefully it can be one step and a part of increasing the diversity there.”

Students from the School of Information petitioned for change in the summer of 2020 following the Black Lives Matter protests. The petition called upon the School of Information to address racial issues by encouraging the inclusion of BIPOC individuals among staff and faculty. 

Students also created a survey to gauge the depth of the issue, which found that 89.3% of respondents supported the creation of a BIPOC scholarship.

Keba Knecht said the 2020 petition motivated her to try to bring the action items to life with other alumni since UT can not offer scholarships based on race.

“When we learned that, … (we) started working with Texas Exes, which has more flexibility in that area,” Keba Knecht said. “We felt it was something we could do as alumni that the school wasn’t able to do because of those prohibitions.”

Dorothy Guerrero, vice president of communications for Texas Exes, said the scholarship department of Texas Exes will help choose the scholarship recipients to prevent any conflicts of interest from donors. Additionally, Guerrero said Texas Exes will help provide social and networking opportunities for students that receive scholarships like that of the School of Information Fund.

“It’s more than a check that people need,” Guerrero said. “If we have a network connection, we’re going to unlock it for you.”

Graduate student Emma Hetrick said she participated in creating the 2020 petition and now serves as a student consultant for the BIPOC fund.

“I think similar to most departments across UT, the (School of Information) is not representative of racial demographics in the United States, or even in the state of Texas,” Hetrick said. “I hope … that the (School of Information) would be more reflective over time with the scholarship.”