CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America will invest $2.5 million to expand UNC Charlotte’s signature bridge program for historically underrepresented students and to support the creation of a Community Innovation Incubator.

Through this investment, Bank of America is strengthening its long-standing partnership with UNC Charlotte to support students and upward mobility for the Charlotte region.

“As Charlotte’s only public research institution, UNC Charlotte puts access and student success at the core of our mission,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “The important work we are doing to reduce the equity gap for students is a national model, helping to create a diverse workforce for our fast-growing region. We are grateful to Bank of America for its long-standing partnership and for continuing its commitment to UNC Charlotte and our community. By partnering, we can create a path for even more students to earn a Charlotte degree and enter the workforce ready to thrive, creating a stronger, more equitable Charlotte.”

Officials say the University Transition Opportunities Program (UTOP,) powered by Bank of America, will expand UNC Charlotte’s signature bridge program by an additional 300 students over a five-year period.

UTOP began in 1986, creating a path for underrepresented students to successfully transition from high school to college by providing a rigorous six-week summer collegiate experience, according to a news release.

Officials say over the past 30 years, UTOP graduates consistently see increased GPAs as well as higher retention and graduation rates.

“My UTOP experience gave me the foundation I needed to succeed at UNC Charlotte and, ultimately, with my career at Bank of America,” said Assa Sylla ’21, a UTOP graduate and financial management analyst at Bank of America. “The program helped me familiarize myself with campus, make friends and network, sharpen my study skills, take classes and achieve a 4.0 GPA, all before starting my first semester. Had I not done UTOP, it would have been extremely hard for me to have graduated on time with a full-time offer from the bank.”

Through the creation of the Community Innovation Incubator, Bank of America and UNC Charlotte will accelerate upward mobility and social impact in the community.

Officials say the Community Innovation Incubator will execute community-centric research in Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity.

Local residents and community leaders will work as peers with researchers, students and experts to co-design data-driven solutions for the region, according to a news release.

Officials say the research funded through the investment supports the scholarly mission of the University, while helping to address community issues.

“Bank of America recognizes the importance of investing in equitable access to higher education and the power of data-driven strategy,” said Christine Katziff, Bank of America’s chief audit executive and a member of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees. “This funding will expand the reach of UNC Charlotte’s signature UTOP bridge program to help students from underrepresented communities receive the support they need and deserve to realize their career goals. The funding will also propel the creation of the Community Innovation Incubator, which is focused on leveraging research to advance racial equity and economic opportunities within key areas of the Charlotte region. We value our 31-year partnership with UNC Charlotte, and this is another step forward in our ongoing journey.”

Officials say in the three-decade relationship, Bank of America has invested time and more than $10.6 million with UNC Charlotte.

Officials say the bank’s most recent gift aligns with many key and critical components of the University’s recently launched 10-year strategic plan to “shape what’s next” through research, teaching, leadership, and diversity and inclusion.


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