The University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management has nearly doubled its annual scholarship capacity with the establishment of a new $50 million endowed fund to support women and underrepresented students.

The Carlson Centennial Scholars Program, named in honor of the school's 100th year and funded by just 15 generous donors, will award recurring scholarships to at least 75 new students per year. The awards are renewable, lasting for up to four years for undergraduates and for the entirety of graduate students' programs.

"It's about bringing in and retaining the best and the brightest," Carlson School Dean Sri Zaheer said. "We are very, very keen on getting more underrepresented students into our program."

The first cohort of 34 scholars was enrolled last fall. Nearly 75% of them are women and about 40% are students of color.

Carlson School administrators select students for the program based on factors that include academics, diversity, leadership and financial need.

The new fund will generate about $2.25 million in scholarships per year, Zaheer said, adding to some $2.5 million in philanthropic scholarships the school already gives out annually.

Undergraduates selected for the program will receive an average scholarship of $7,500 per year, totaling about $30,000 in aid over their four years, said Travis Smith, Carlson's assistant dean for institutional advancement.

Graduate students will receive a higher annual award sum.

"The intention is to fully meet their financial need," Smith said.

All Carlson School students are required to study abroad before graduating. Students in the Centennial Scholars Program will receive a stipend to help pay for this, in addition to their scholarship aid. They also will receive specialized programming. The first cohort of students was put through a leadership program, administrators said.

Students in the program must maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher to keep their scholarships, a Carlson School spokesman said.

The donors who funded the program include Best Buy, 3M, the Carlson Family Foundation and several philanthropists.

"Centennial Scholar students will be supported to elevate their academic and professional experiences and enter the workforce ready to embody business as a force for good," donors John and Nancy Lindahl said in a statement.

Zaheer and Smith believe the new scholarship fund will give Carlson an edge over some of the best business schools in the country when vying to recruit top students.

"These types of deals are quite rare," Smith said.

Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth