Pioneering trio: Maanaa Pierre, Narissa Allibhai , and Aisha Kigongo — of Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, respectively — are the first graduate students in the MasterCard Scholars Program at Berkeley. All are seeking master’s degrees (Pierre and Alibhai in CNR and Kigongo in the School of Information ). They’re all living at International House this year. The first year of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program is underway at UC Berkeley. Berkeley is one of 14 institutions that have partnered with the MasterCard Foundation to offer comprehensive support for university education to talented, yet economically disadvantaged students from Sub-Saharan Africa. On this campus, the program will provide holistic support — financial, academic, social, and career counseling — to 113 students from Sub-Saharan Africa from 2012 to 2020. The scholars will pursue both undergraduate and professional master’s degrees. To be considered for the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, both undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers must first be admitted to the university through the regular admissions process. Berkeley’s first-year crop of graduate and undergraduate students were featured in an article and video earlier in the fall semester. The program is part of a $500 million education initiative by the MasterCard Foundation aimed at helping some 15,000 financially disadvantaged students from Sub-Saharan Africa. (Africa, according to the United Nations, is now the second-fastest-growing region in the world; 70 percent of its nearly one billion people are under age 30, and only six percent go to college.) UC Berkeley will receive $30 million from the foundation over the next eight years. Expressing his pleasure at the grant, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau welcomed the first students’ arrival, and said “Their presence will greatly enrich our diverse campus, and they will help us all learn more about the vitality, dynamism, and diversity of Africa.” As the University of California’s original land grant university, he continued, “UC Berkeley has long been committed to education as a lever for change, economic growth, and social innovation. He added, “The notion of ‘give-back,’ which is central to the Scholars Program, mirrors well the public service aspect that is central to UC Berkeley’s mission.” Administered out of the Center for African Studies, the program at Berkeley is supported by a broad cross-section of functional and disciplinary units on campus including the Division of Student Affairs, Undergraduate Admissions, the Graduate Division, the Berkeley International Office, and the International House. Initially, only master’s degrees in certain fields were considered for funding — among them information management and systems (MIMS); city and regional planning (MCP); development practice (MDP); energy and resources (ERG); engineering (M.Eng.) — with others to be added later. More information about the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, including the application process, is available on the program’s website.