On campus beat: Travelers Companies tries to close gap to college

  • Article by: Jenna Ross
  • Star Tribune
  • January 9, 2013 - 5:54 PM

Mai Yang Vue thought she was applying for "just another scholarship."

Along with it, she got a mentor, two internships and -- just maybe -- a career.

"I was completely blown away," she said.

Vue was an Augsburg College junior when she became a part of a program developed by the Travelers Companies with students like her in mind. It's called Travelers EDGE.

One of the insurance company's aims is, of course, to be able to pick from a bigger diverse pool of prospective employees. But it's more than that, said Marlene Ibsen, president of Travelers Foundation.

The challenge was to create a program that was both "good for the company and good for the community," she said. It partners with schools, including Metropolitan State University, and programs such as College Possible to help more low-income and minority students start and complete college.

Finance-minded students get scholarships. But the program goes beyond money. Travelers gives scholars preference when picking interns, for example. A new study by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education found that it's "a high-touch model that strives to provide intensive, tailored support along with financial resources."

The study praised Traveler's program as "a model on the cutting edge," supported its efforts to better track students and recommended it reach further back in the educational "pipeline." (One more thing about that study: Travelers gave the institute a grant to conduct it.)

This spring, with majors in business management and economics, Vue will become the first in her family to earn a college degree.

Vue was born in refugee camps in Thailand and grew up in St. Paul, where she attended Central High School. At Augsburg, she knew she wanted to study business. But her work at Travelers has introduced her to a new world: underwriting.

"That was something that if I wasn't in the program, I would not have even thought about."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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