Monday, March 21, 2022
  Awards and Recognitions, Student Life

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV is one of 10 universities in the country selected by the Kemper Foundation as a partner in the Kemper Scholars Program, which helps support potential, diverse students who demonstrate financial need and interest in a career in business.  

The foundation, philanthropic arm of the Kemper Corporation, chose three students from UTRGV’s Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship as part of the program’s inaugural cohort: 

  • Diego Fonseca, from Brownsville, a junior majoring in finance.  
  • Alejandra Avilez, from McAllen, a junior majoring in finance.  
  • Fatima Mancia Mendoza, from Dallas, a sophomore majoring in accounting. 

Two UTRGV faculty – Dr. Jorge Vidal, lecturer of finance, and Maria Leonard, assistant professor of practice in management – will assist the students during their time in the program. 

The foundation will award 650 scholarships over the next five years to high-achieving, diverse college students at its partnering Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The program also provides financial grants to professors pursuing academic initiatives and to on-campus diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs. The foundation will partner with the Kemper Corporation to offer more than 325 internships to the schools over the next five years.  



Avilez said Vidal encouraged her to apply for the program, but she wasn’t sure, at first, exactly what career path she wanted. Still, she decided to give the Kemper program a try.  

“I told myself I was going to be open-minded about the Kemper Scholars. I don’t know about the industry of insurance, let me kick it up a notch,” she said. “I submitted the application, and to be chosen as a scholar was really rewarding. I’m looking forward to the opportunities ahead.” 

Mendoza remembers being overjoyed when she got the email about being a scholar. It was over winter break, and she was in Dallas with her family.  

“I remember I screamed a little bit after reading the email, I was so excited. I told my family about the program, and I was proud of myself for going through the process. In the end, finding out I was a Kemper Scholar was great,” she said.  

Fonseca was taking a final exam the day he found out he was a scholar.  

“I remember after the interviews we received an email listing the winners,” he said. “Dr. Vidal had called me, and I was super excited about it. It was the best news I could have received that day, even though I was taking a final.”  

Both Vidal and Leonard were eager for their students to apply.  

“I told my class, there was this scholarship and to apply,” Vidal said. “My general advice to every student is to always take advantage of these opportunities; they don’t present themselves all the time, they come in cycles. So, when they do appear, don’t be shy. Try.”  

Even if they aren’t chosen, he said, the experience of applying is valuable. 

Leonard, too, said it is important to apply, as most internships and businesses are looking for well-rounded students.  

“It’s all about having a well-versed college experience that will prepare students for their professional careers,” she said. “Aside from excelling in their classes, they should explore ways to earn transferable skills. Some skills can’t be taught just from a book, so they need to go out there and learn.” 



Each student will receive a $10,000 scholarship. In addition, the students are working toward an internship with the Kemper office in McAllen. Mendoza and Avilez are currently interviewing for a summer opportunity while Fonseca is applying for an internship in the fall.  

The scholars’ program also will provide career resources and mentoring opportunities for the students.  

“This program is attached to the possibility of a job. Kemper is offering internships to search for the next leaders within the community,” Leonard said. “The approach is helping students within the region to potentially develop their own business. They are tapping into the talent that is here at UTRGV.”   

The three UTRGV students said they hope other students apply for the Kemper Scholars Program and encourage them to not be afraid to take part in organizations at the school.  

“I know some people may think, ‘There’s going to be so many applications. They won’t choose me.’ But I think at the end of the day, you should try,” Mendoza said. “Show them who you are in an interview.”  

Vidal and Leonard will be looking for new scholars this Fall.  

Some requirements for the program include: 

  • A minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.  
  • Qualifying majors in an academic are related to financial services or insurance, such as finance, data analytics, actuarial science and business.  
  • Eligible for a Pell Grant or demonstrated financial need. 

For more details about the Kemper Scholars Program, email Leonard at and / or Vidal at  



Kemper is one of the nation’s leading specialized insurers. With nearly $15 billion in assets, we are improving the world of insurance by providing affordable and easy-to-use personalized solutions to individuals, families and businesses through Kemper Auto, Kemper Personal Insurance and Kemper Life and Health brands. They serve more than 6.6 million policies, are represented by approximately 36,700 agents and brokers, and have approximately 10,100 associates dedicated to meeting the every-changing needs of their customers.  


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.