Ask Adonis Abdullah, a freshman at UNC Charlotte, what the Belk Scholars Program means to him. He will tell you it’s more than the full scholarship or the quality education in the burgeoning field of analytics. It’s the fact that the program gave him a feeling he hadn’t experienced before.
In 2017, Abdullah was a high-achieving high school student in Mooresville, North Carolina. While his parents worked hard in their jobs (his father holds three jobs at once), he labored hard in school. Yet, he describes a feeling of inadequacy that stayed with him, until he applied and was accepted into the Belk Scholars Program.
“I realized in that moment that someone valued all of the work I had done enough to invest in me, and that gave me confidence. With this newfound confidence, I aspire to do great things with my life,” Abdullah said.
The Belk Scholars Program in Business Analytics, a component of the Data Science Initiative, allows high-achieving students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years. Now in its third year, the program currently includes 21 high-achieving students from throughout North Carolina and the country.
In 2013, Belk Inc. provided $5 million, the largest single gift in the history of the Belk College of Business. More than $750,000 of this gift is supporting scholarships for the Belk Scholars Program. The support from Belk Inc. has been bolstered by gifts from BB&T and individuals including Richard Cox.
With this support, the students receive scholarships covering in-state tuition and fees as undergraduates, with the opportunity to earn a master’s degree.
Over the past three years, the Belk Scholars have made positive, lasting impressions on the business community through internships and projects that create new applications and processes for businesses. Each year, the Belk College has seen the growth of interest in the Belk Scholars Program, with the program expecting more than 100 applications for fall 2018.
Chancellor Philip L. Dubois said the Belk Scholars Program is pivotal for UNC Charlotte.
“Thanks to the support of Belk Inc. and the Belk family, this program is continuing to flourish and help us to recruit some of the best and brightest students interested in business analytics,” he said.
Steven Ott, dean of the Belk College of Business, said the Belk Scholars Program is an example of the college’s impact as a leading urban research business school.
“Through the Belk Scholars Program, we have been able to recruit students from around the state of North Carolina, who will be trained for immediate employment in business analytics, a field in high demand for qualified talent,” he said.
Maddie McDonald, a sophomore Belk Scholar from Denver, North Carolina, who aspires to be a marketing analyst, is following a legacy of Niner pride in her family. Both of her parents attended UNC Charlotte, and her brother is also a student in the college.
“I remember the day I got into the program. My mom opened the letter and texted me, ‘You got in.’ My dad had been working two jobs at the time, so getting the news that we didn’t have to worry about paying for school, it was life-changing,” McDonald said.