Creighton, Union Pacific partner to build diverse workforce

Christopher Whitt, PhD, center, Creighton vice provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, with Heider College of Business student Traemon Anderson, left, and School of Law student Jamel Walker, right. Whitt said the Union Pacific Diversity Scholars Program at Creighton University will extend far beyond an excellent education.

Creighton University and Union Pacific Railroad are teaming up to enrich inclusivity at their respective organizations while uniting to build Omaha’s future workforce, one that is more diverse and more educated.

In fall 2020, the inaugural class of students in the Union Pacific Diversity Scholars Program at Creighton University will begin innovative academic careers. Development in inclusive excellence and intercultural competency will supplement and enhance their coursework.

From their first semesters on campus, the program’s eight students — all from underrepresented groups — and Union Pacific volunteer mentors will work together to navigate their academic and professional success.

Creighton and Union Pacific’s Community Ties Giving Program each pledged more than $1 million to fund the Diversity Scholars program, which creates academic merit scholarships and professional development opportunities for students of color over a four-year period.

Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., Ph.D., says the program serves the university’s and Union Pacific’s mutual goal to recruit diverse and high-performing students and employees. “Together, we will reach out to students of color, welcome them to Creighton and Omaha, invest in their strengths and provide them with the tools to succeed and lead — extending far beyond an excellent education.”

Christopher Whitt, Ph.D., Creighton vice provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, says the program is not a typical scholarship award.

“Organizations may label a scholarship or fellowship with ‘inclusion’ or ‘diversity,’” Whitt says. “In many cases, it’s simply a scholarship for underrepresented groups with a cultural competency session or two. You don’t see unique opportunities like this one with a Fortune 200 business that progressively develops across four years.”

The program's students will work closely with Whitt to develop personal philosophies about institutional diversity and inclusion by witnessing it at work in a higher education setting. Diversity and inclusion leaders at Union Pacific will provide the scholars with personal attention as they explore the topic from a corporate perspective.

As UP Diversity Scholars advance in the program, they will mentor younger participants and connect with community partners to grow their professional and social networks. Junior and senior students will apply to Union Pacific’s internship program so that they may explore career opportunities at the railroad.

“At Union Pacific, we believe diverse perspectives drive stronger idea generation and spark creativity that, ultimately, fosters innovative solutions in today’s rapidly changing world,” says Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz. “This scholarship program is a step toward strengthening our future workforce and creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community.”

To qualify for the Union Pacific Diversity Scholars Program, high school students must hold at least a 3.5 GPA. Students must apply to Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences or Heider College of Business by Jan. 5, 2020, for consideration.

“We are focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in Nebraska, not only to attract and retain top talent, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Fritz says. “Working together, we can help make Nebraska the most welcoming state in the Midwest.”

Creighton University offers a top-ranked education in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition — and a welcoming, supportive environment to a diverse community of educators, professionals and support staff. In the process of applying to college? Read “8 things every college applicant should know.”

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