A new scholarship program in UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science aims to give financial and academic opportunities to undergraduates from groups that are underrepresented in engineering, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, students with disabilities and first-generation college students, according to School of Engineering Dean Craig Benson.

“It’s going to be one of these transformative things that people are going to look back on 10 years from now and say, ‘Wow, that really changed the trajectory,’ ” Benson says.

The program is being funded with a $15 million gift from the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, which is being matched with funds from the University’s Bicentennial Scholars Fund. The late A. James Clark earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland.

“The generosity of the Clark Foundation, amplified by the vision and foresight of the Board of Visitors to provide matching funds for scholarships, has created a unique partnership,” says Mark Luellen, UVA’s vice president for advancement, “that will enhance the educational and student experience for hundreds of our top engineering students.”

Benson says he expects the program to help expand the school’s diversity significantly. Currently, 286 out of 2,757 undergraduate students are underrepresented minorities, and 870 are women, according to Aaron Williams, a senior data research scientist in the school. The program will fully endow scholarships for 80 students, starting with roughly 15 next fall, Benson says.