Marquette’s Urban Scholars program breaks down barriers, creates pathway for college 

For nearly two decades, the Urban Scholars program has provided opportunities for disadvantaged students, helping them develop great achievements on and off campus.

Since 2007, Marquette’s Urban Scholars program has opened educational doors for high-achieving students who have a background in leadership and service. Every year, the program provides up to 45 full-tuition scholarships to high school seniors from the Milwaukee area with a focus on, but not limited to, first-generation college students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds who show great academic promise and commitment to enhancing their community through intentional action and involvement.  

Over the past 17 years, 240 students have been a part of the program. Today over 130 undergraduates across all four class years have been funded by the program as of fall 2023, with six scholars set to graduate in May. 

Asia Connor, coordinator for the Urban Scholars program, guides students during their time at Marquette, providing assistance centered on their academic success, social development and future careers. She considers it a privilege to help scholars successfully navigate their higher education journey. 

“They’re an amazing bunch of individuals who are determined to make their dreams come true and make their marks on Marquette’s campus and beyond,” Connor says. “I’m excited to support them on these amazing journeys they will be taking.” 

The program’s success speaks for itself with an 87% graduation rate as of the fall of 2023. Since 2012, the four-year graduation rate has increased by 29% overall.  

Urban Scholars fast facts: 

  • Urban Scholars first year to second year retention rate is 95%, or 166 out of 175 students, as of fall 2023.  
  • The current graduation rate among eligible students (four years or more) as of fall 2023 is 87%, or 78 out of 90 students. 
  • In February 2024, out of more than 1,000 qualifying students, around 150 were invited to interview for positions in the 2024 Urban Scholars cohort. Of these students:  
    • 26 have a Boys and Girls Clubs affiliation 
    • 7 have an Upward Bound affiliation 
    • 14 students are from out of state 
    • 23 students are from Cristo Rey Schools 
    • Students have an average GPA of 3.82  
    • 71 have strong leadership and service experiences 
    • 6 will benefit from the Equity in MKE housing and food plan scholarship 

Below in a Q&A, learn more from Latrice Harris-Collins, who is the acting director for Black student initiatives and oversees the Urban Scholars program, and Amanda Markwardt, coordinator for Marquette’s Urban Scholars program. 


How important is the Urban Scholars program at Marquette?  

Latrice Harris-Collins: 

The Urban Scholars Programs helps Marquette live out our Catholic, Jesuit mission. It also promotes our vision for creating pathways for underrepresented students to have access to a Catholic, Jesuit education that’s transformational. These students contribute to the richness of our campus by bringing with them various identities and experiences. 

When you spoke at the Black History Month luncheon in February, you were so enthusiastic about Black student initiatives. What fuels your fire about the talent you’re seeing on campus?   

Latrice Harris-Collins: 

I get excited about the talent on campus because they demonstrate through their hard work, commitment to success and personal perseverance that they will be ready to be the change they want to see in the world. They are taking risks to be prepared for whatever comes next for them. They also exude a type of confidence that’s undeniable. They want to learn, they want to play, they want to grow, they want to Be The Difference. 

What are some recent highlights or successes of the Urban Scholars program? 

Amanda Markwardt: 

We are welcoming the fourth cohort of 45 scholars. With this, we will be at around 180 scholars, and with an additional Urban Scholars coordinator, we will be able to better support these students with holistic advising, engaging opportunities and development for their future.  

Through the maintained partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks, we were proudly able to have two of our Urban Scholars receive fellowships who are out there working in the areas of corporate social responsibility and marketing with the team. 

With the gift from Coach Shaka Smart and Maya Smart through the Bo and Candy Ellis Student Success Fund Emergency Grant, we have been able to support 10 scholars already this academic year. The goal of the funding is to provide students who have emergency situations the help they need to continue their academic journeys at Marquette. Some of those scenarios are car break-ins, financial strains from family medical issues, grief, loss of employment, just to name a few. 

What makes you the most excited about the Urban Scholars program and what are you most hopeful for when it comes to the program? 

Amanda Markwardt: 

By far, it’s the students! The students make me excited; they make me smile and incredibly proud. I’m excited for what we will work on together. I’m hopeful and excited to see what they will accomplish and what lies ahead of them.