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Latest Round of RMA Scholarships Helping Students Pursue Passion for Banking

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The three top RMA Scholars have one thing in common in addition to their academic excellence: a passion to make banking a force for good in their communities.

Recognizing the importance of supporting the next generation of leaders in the banking industry, the Risk Management Association Foundation has awarded nearly $200,000 in scholarships to 96 promising college students for the 2023-2024 school year.

Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2015, the RMA Foundation has awarded more than $1.7 million in scholarships. The three top RMA Scholars have one thing in common in addition to their academic excellence: a passion to make banking a force for good in their communities.

Scholarship awardee Isis Burgos said “dreams progress into realities with the first ‘yes’ that comes from the bank,” and that by getting directly involved with the communities they serve banks “can act as forces of good for those communities.” Burgos, a senior at Rice University, earned the William F. Githens Scholarship, which is named for a former RMA CEO who was instrumental in launching the RMA Foundation. The scholarship is awarded to the most promising overall candidate who demonstrates exceptional achievements and is pursuing a career in the financial services industry.

A managerial economics and organizational sciences major, Burgos said her ultimate career goal is to “advise as many people as possible what to do with their wealth.” In 20 years she sees herself “combining wealth planning, banking, investing, and lending to help individuals strategically meet their short-term financial goals while also planning for the long term.”

Soukeyna Dale, winner of the Michael G. Nassy Scholarship, said her career goal in banking is to “help communities become more financially educated.” Named for a former RMA board chair who is chief credit officer at Fairfax, Virginia-based FVCbank, the $3,000 scholarship recognizes the most promising student applicant of color.

Dale, a student at Dillard University in New Orleans, is a business administration major with a concentration in management and a double minor in financial economics and political science. Her interest in banking started in high school with a youth apprenticeship as a teller at her local credit union.

“I realize how informative the experience was for me,” she said. “I believe I became financially literate throughout the experience and want to take part in helping other people become financially literate by being an aid in their everyday banking processes.” Dale said banks can be a force for good by genuinely serving communities in all capacities. “The best way is by doing what they can to improve their communities’ financial and banking knowledge to truly benefit themselves,” she said.

Yaseen Merali, winner of RMA’s William Bonnell Scholarship, said, “[I want to] combine my analytical skills with my passion and dedication toward client service.” A senior at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Merali is a finance major with a minor in economics. The Bonnell award is also named for a former RMA board chair—National Bank of Canada CRO William Bonnell—and provides $3,000 to the most promising Canadian student. Merali said the scholarship will allow him to focus on his education full-time during his senior year. He also intends to take the Level I exam toward a CFA credential within the next 12 months.

“This scholarship will allow me to have funds so that I can invest in the necessary resources to ensure success,” he said. A series of coffee chats with professionals in the industry stoked Merali’s interest in banking. Then, after participating in various credit case competitions and working at one of the big six Canadian banks, “I was certain banking was for me,” he said.

Like Burgos and Dale, Merali believes banks can advance the communities they serve through “financial education, supporting small businesses, and corporate social responsibility practices.”

According to RMA President and CEO Nancy Foster, the scholarship program helps bring fresh talent into the banking industry at a critical time as older leadership retires. By providing financial assistance to undergraduates who show exceptional promise, RMA is fulfilling its mission to nurture the next generation of bankers. With challenges presented by rapid technological transformation, climate and demographic change, and ever-increasing emerging risks, the financial industry needs workforces “with a diversity of talent and backgrounds to achieve its important mission,” Foster has said.

Financial need is not considered in the scholarship awards, which range from $1,500 to $5,000. In addition to providing scholarships to the next generation of bankers, RMA partners with universities across the country to prepare students to enter the workforce. Through the University Membership program, students at participating universities are provided with complimentary individual student membership, an RMA Journal subscription, access to the RMA member forum, opportunities to network with banking practitioners, and invitations to RMA chapter events and workshops. Students at participating universities are also able to earn the industry-recognized Credit Essentials Certificate, which demonstrates proficiency in business and financial knowledge and helps certificate holders stand out to employers.

The Risk Management Association created the RMA Foundation in 2014 to assist with attracting talent to banking at a time of increasing baby boomer retirements and competition for graduates from tech and
other sectors.