The 25th annual Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic will be held Monday, June 14, at Westfields Golf Club in Chantilly, Va. Register as an individual or a foursome here.
Photo: University Life Advisory Board chair Angela Moody (second from right) and her foursome at the 2019 event.
When more than 100 golfers tee off on June 14 at the George Mason University Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic, they’ll be gathering for an event that has become one of Mason’s most durable and meaningful traditions.
The golfers play to support two programs—the Early Identification Program (EIP) and the Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP)—that exemplify Mason’s mission of access to excellence.
Since it debuted in 1995, the Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic has raised more than $700,000 to support scholarships and aid for deserving first-generation college students. That’s an exceptional number, translating into more than 220 scholarships awarded.
The tournament is a top fundraiser because its cause is so strong, according to Angela Moody, chair of the University Life Advisory Board, which puts on the event. “Our generous sponsors understand that the mission of the event directly supports preparing, recruiting and retaining first-generation college students,” says Moody. “The 2020 EIP graduating class saw 96% of the EIP students enrolled in college. That is an incredible return on investment.”
Founded in 1987, the Early Identification Program supports the academic, career, and personal development of first-generation college-bound students. Each year EIP accepts a new class of rising eighth graders from seven school districts in Northern Virginia. Students “graduate” from the program after their senior year in high school. More than 200 EIP alumni are currently attending Mason.
The Student Transition Empowerment Program helps many of these same students succeed once they are accepted at Mason. STEP follows a summer bridge model, hosting 50 to 60 students each year who live on campus, taking courses together and receiving mentorship support.
“EIP was an amazing opportunity in my life that helped me find my path to college,” says nursing student Angelica Felder. “EIP made it so I would have my very own support system in college—people rooting for me and always willing to hear me out.”
Funds raised through the Golf Classic are often the key to helping students who may struggle to make ends meet. “Every year I have students who are entering Mason and need additional funds. We also have students going to their next semester who need funds to close the tuition gap,” says Khaseem Davis, director of EIP since 2015. “Often the pot of money we raise from the golf tournament is able to help students who are already cash-strapped.”
Book awards to students via EIP’s office are typically about $250 to $500; scholarships can be up to $2,000.
“The great thing is that this money is unrestricted, so we are flexible in how we distribute the funds,” says Davis. “We are able to get students the assistance they need, when they need it, and how they need it.”
Like so many other events, last year’s tournament was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once over the initial disappointment, volunteer organizers rallied with determination to bring the event back in 2021 better than ever. That’s just what is happening, making this year the “new” 25th anniversary.
Sandy Spring Bank has been the tournament’s title sponsor for the past decade. Recently ranked #1 by the Washington Business Journal for employee volunteerism, the company is known for giving back to the community.
“A founding core principle, from 153 years ago, is to make the communities we serve better places to live, work, raise a family and run a business,” says Jay O’Brien, executive vice president for commercial and retail banking at Sandy Spring, who helps spearhead the bank’s involvement. “Our employees live that out every day, leading and volunteering, in big ways and small. Supporting the Classic is very meaningful to us.”
The dedicated volunteers of the University Life Advisory Board, along with Mason University Life staff, are the engines behind the tournament’s success. They recruit local corporations, small businesses, and individuals to sponsor (and play in) the tournament, always with the goal of supporting students in mind.
“These tournaments and fundraising events don’t just happen. A successful event—and one that has thrived for 25 years—requires amazing leaders and volunteers,” O’Brien adds. “They are incredibly passionate about the impact that Mason and its programs have on these amazing students and so committed to helping the students reach their goals … literally changing lives for the better.”
“A big thank you goes to everyone who takes the time to come play and who puts the tournament together,” says Khaseem Davis. “They’re not paid. They do this because of their affinity for Mason and their love of the students—and wanting to help provide those students the opportunities they need to succeed. So a big thank you from me to everyone who volunteers to help.”
Rob Riordan / June 3, 2021