George Mason University: Mason’s Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic celebrates 26 years

More than 120 golfers teed off on June 13 at University Life’s Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic. Held at the Westfields Golf Club, the annual event supports student scholarships in George Mason University’s Early Identification Program (EIP) and the Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP).

Since the tournament debuted in 1995, it has raised more than $800,000 to support scholarships and aid for first-generation college students, and more than 250 scholarships have been awarded.

Sandy Spring Bank, the tournament’s title sponsor for 12 years, and a dedicated group of University Life Advisory Board members and friends work tirelessly to make the event a success each year to benefit Mason students.

“We are grateful for the team that plans and organizes the golf classic,” says Alissa Karton, assistant to the vice president for University Life. “They have close community and business ties, which brings back a loyal group of sponsors and participants every year.”

Founded in 1987, EIP supports the academic, career, and personal development of first-generation college-bound students. Each year EIP accepts a new class of approximately 170 rising eighth graders from seven school districts in Northern Virginia. During students’ time in EIP, they receive year-round, multi-year supports such as mentoring, tutoring, STEM enrichment, and a plethora of other programs designed to aid in their academic and personal success, preparation for college, and career readiness.

Students “graduate” from the program after their senior year in high school and if they meet Mason’s admission requirements are automatically accepted into Mason. With its 2022 class, EIP saw 96% of 112 high school graduates enroll in college. More than 200 EIP alumni currently attend Mason, many of whom receive scholarships and book awards funded by the Golf Classic.

STEP was started in 1990 to help underrepresented Virginia residents complete college. Each year, the program hosts 30-50 incoming Mason students, who are the first in their families to pursue a four-year degree. For six weeks during its summer program, the students live on campus, take courses together, and receive mentorship support.

Students who complete the summer program become STEP Scholars. These scholars have a higher retention rate than the general Mason student body, are highly engaged in the campus community, and serve as mentors for future STEP participants. Many STEP scholars receive scholarships funded by the golf tournament during their time at Mason, giving them added support to stay in school and graduate on time.

“The Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic is a perfect example of a community coming together for a common goal—to ensure first-generation college students can achieve their dream of going to college,” said Kaitlin Cicchetti, director of advancement for University Life.

She added, “To know that this event has been happening for 26 years, and that many of our players and sponsors have been supporting us since day one, it makes what we’ve achieved together even more special.”