Monday, December 19, 2022
  Awards and Recognitions

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Six UTRGV students recently were awarded scholarships from the Kemper Corporation’s philanthropic arm, the Kemper Foundation, and are now identified as Kemper Scholars.

The new cohort of scholars for this academic year is:

  • Kayla Flores, of Sullivan City, junior, Marketing major.
  • Fatima Mancia Mendoza, of Arlington, junior, Accounting major.
  • Lizbeth Arely Ramirez-Gomez, of Brownsville, junior, Finance major.
  • Alejandra Mayde Avilez, of McAllen, senior, Finance major.
  • Itzel Rojas, of Rio Grande City, junior, Accounting major.
  • Josiah Gonzalez, of San Benito, sophomore, Finance major.

Dr. Jorge Vidal, assistant professor of practice for the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship, and Maria Leonard, assistant professor of practice in management, are assisting the students during their time in the program.

The RCVCOBE announced its partnership with the Kemper Foundation earlier this year, when the foundation announced it would commit $4.5 million to the next generation of its Kemper Scholars Program.

The foundation will award 650 scholarships over the next five years to high-achieving, diverse college students at 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. 


Josiah Gonzalez, one of the new UTRGV scholars, was ecstatic to find out he had been chosen.

“I felt as though I completed a lifelong mission to prove myself. My involvement in the community leading up to the Scholars Program were all pieces of a puzzle to prove that I could do great,” the sophomore said. “The Kemper Scholars Program just might have been the final piece.”

Gonzalez, a finance major, grew to appreciate the business field thanks to his dad, who could “go on for hours talking about business,” he said.

As a scholar, he said he is looking forward to the networking opportunities and meeting business professionals.

Lizbeth Arely Ramirez-Gomez, a junior and fellow scholar, recalled the moment she found out she had been chosen for the Kemper Scholars Program. She was checking email and having her morning coffee, and then … “Then I almost spilled my drink!” 

The finance major said the field is versatile and she is eager to learn more from the program. This is a big deal for her, she said, especially as she hopes to be a good example for her younger siblings.

“I’m a first-generation student, so I hope that my siblings and other people in the community have the courage to apply for this scholarship in the future,” she said. “Although there are limitations from a lower-income family, I hope to show others that with hard work and dedication, they can achieve greatness in life.”

Each student will receive a scholarship, with the amount determined by each student’s needs. The scholars also are working toward an opportunity to be given an internship with the local Kemper office.

The Scholars Program also provides career resources and mentoring opportunities for the students.

Itzel Rojas, an accounting major, is grateful for being part of the Kemper Scholars Program. She said she is honored to work with peers while they all practicing their leadership skills and services in the business arena.

“I am looking forward to gaining experience and further developing my leadership, communication and professional skills,” the UTRGV junior said. “I also hope to gain real-life experience and learn from mentors who excel in the business world while giving back to their communities.”

The scholars all said they are encouraging other UTRGV students to apply for the Kemper Scholars Program because there is so much to gain, and there is always the possibility of being chosen.

“As students, we doubt ourselves and think that our accomplishments are not enough, but many of us are doing so much that we do not even realize it,” Ramirez-Gomez said.

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  


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.