Friday, April 5, 2024
  Student Life, Around Campus, Awards

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – APRIL 5, 2024 – Seven UTRGV students are now among the new cohort of Kemper Scholars, designated by the Kemper Corporation’s philanthropic arm, the Kemper Foundation, to continue its efforts to empower future business leaders.

The new cohort of scholars includes:

  • Dulce Rangel, senior finance major, from McAllen.
  • Eric Arredondo, senior business management major, from McAllen.
  • Damian Gutierrez, junior information systems major, from Edinburg.
  • Kayla Flores, senior marketing major, from Sullivan City.
  • Itzel Rojas, senior accounting major, from Rio Grande City.
  • Ignacio Romeros, senior business administration-accounting major, from Mercedes.
  • Marshall Barbosa, senior accounting major, from Brownsville.

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 two years ago, 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, 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 programs. The foundation will partner with the Kemper Corporation to offer more than 325 internships to the schools. 


Kayla Flores, marketing major, and Itzel Rojas, accounting major, are returning Kemper Scholars; both received the scholarship two years ago and both said they are looking forward to this new chapter as Kemper Scholars.

Rojas admires the Kemper’s focus on education and helping students gain more experience as they work toward becoming professionals.

“With the Kemper Scholars, it helps me with professional development, as well as with funding,” she said. “I moved to be closer to the university – Rio Grande City is about an hour drive – so the scholarship really helped me with rent money, giving me the time to really focus on my studies and my internship.”

The mock interviews, career fairs and internships help students develop both personally and professionally, she said.

For the other five scholars, this is a new experience and agree with Flores and Rojas that the potential for new opportunities is exciting.

Senior finance major Dulce Rangel said she will be starting her internship with Kemper Insurance in the Claims Department, looking over reports, along with the supervisors, to see what will be processed.

“This is just the beginning,” Rangel said. “I have done a lot on my own, but I feel this is the first time that I have the opportunity to do something more professional.”

Damian Gutierrez, a junior information systems major, sees the Kemper Scholars as a definite motivator as he continues his college education.

“It shows me I have the skills the Kemper Corporation is looking for,” he said. “My biggest takeaway from being chosen as a scholar is that I’m on a good track, so I have to keep going.”


The Kemper Scholars will be conducting research focused on the central issue of why insurance rates are going up. The students will be split into three different groups, each responsible for gathering data to be presented at a meeting in late April.

Marshall Barbosa, a senior accounting major, said he is looking forward to working with his colleagues and is confident that he can bring diligence and reliability to the project.

“I am looking forward to improving on what I’ve been doing, that is, collaborating more, communicating more, becoming more of a leader and a voice for myself and for others,” he said. “I feel this is the pathway I need to take.”

A few of the scholars already had some experience working under their belts. Eric Arredondo, senior business management major, had interned with Kemper before applying for the scholarship.

“At Kemper, I had gotten a sense of what the company is and what it is about. That was a steppingstone,” he said, “and I was able to get another internship at a ‘big four’ company in San Antonio.”

Kayla Flores, a marketing major, is currently a store operations intern with H-E-B. She said she has been able to apply lessons learned from her UTRGV classes and from Kemper to her job.

“I have done a lot of presentations, whether it was for work or from the last time I did the Kemper internship. I’ve learned a lot about communications skills,” she said.


Some requirements to be chosen for the Kemper program include:

  • Maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
  • Be in an academic field related to financial services or insurance, such as finance, data analytics, actuarial science and business.
  • Be eligible for a Pell Grant or demonstrate 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.