Powers-Knapp Scholarship graduation May 2, 2017

Program Overview

With a guiding philosophy of “Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service,” our mission is to help academically talented and outstanding young people further the development of their intellectual gifts, abilities, skills, and potential.

Program Components

In addition to providing Scholars with a substantial financial award, the programs’ components allow Scholars to build meaningful relationships with faculty, staff, and peers in the campus community.

Mercile J. Lee Scholars benefit from:

  • Ongoing academic advising and individualized support services by program staff
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • A talented, supportive, and multicultural Community of Scholars who provide a strong peer support network at UW-Madison
  • Opportunities for leadership development
  • Ongoing social and volunteer opportunities
  • Monthly class meetings where Scholars build connections, discuss current issues, and develop their leadership skills
  • Monthly program meetings that feature “fireside chats” with distinguished faculty and staff
  • Special events that promote community-building and intercultural understanding
ethnic fest table activity

The Financial Award

  • Full tuition (resident and non-resident)
  • Book Stipend ($400 per semester)
Casual medium group

Program Expectations

The programs’ financial award is renewable for up to four years pending satisfaction of the following expectations:

  • Maintain status as a full-time student
  • Maintain a cumulative and semester GPA above 3.0
  • Active participation in program activities/events
  • Be a good citizen of the University community

Program History

The Chancellor’s Scholarship Program was the vision of Mercile Lee, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, who became the founding director of the program. She believed that part of the Wisconsin Idea was to create opportunities that would attract academically outstanding students who reflected the diversity of abilities, talents, backgrounds, and experiences within and among targeted minority groups. Mercile Lee contended that a merit-based program would improve the university’s retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students. The approval for the establishment of a merit-based program, the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, was made in 1984 by Chancellor Emeritus Irving Shain and the late Vice Chancellor Emeritus Bryant Kearl. Six (6) Scholars were enrolled in the inaugural class.

The Powers Scholarship Program was established in 1989 under the approval of Former Chancellor Donna Shalala and Former Provost (and later Chancellor) Emeritus David Ward with a bequest from the Edward W. Powers family. The initial object was to attract and support larger numbers of academically talented students from targeted minority groups. Thirty-three (33) Powers Scholars were selected the first year, and they became Powers-Knapp Scholars the following year with additional funding resources from the Kemper K. Knapp bequest fund. Guided by the same mission and philosophy, these two scholarships became known as the Chancellor’s & Powers-Knapp Scholarship Program

In 2018, the Chancellor’s & Powers-Knapp Scholarship Program was renamed the “Mercile J. Lee Scholars Program” in honor of the late program founder, whose decades of hard work and advocacy impacted the lives of so many.

Original Class with Chancellor Irv Shain

"...our "Community of Scholars" has brought together people from different backgrounds who are like minded in the sense that they are driven and strive to be the change they hope to see in the world.”

Joann Huynh, Chancellor's Scholarship Class of 2018