Alumnus’ $7 Million Gift to GW Opens the Door for High-Achieving Students Committed to Leadership and Service Within the Hispanic Community

Making History: The Campaign for GW
Donation to Create the GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute and Assist High School and College Students Across the Nation
June 10, 2015

Columbian College alumnus Gilbert Cisneros, BA ’94, and his wife Jacki, have donated $7 million to create the GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute.

“Gil and Jacki Cisneros’s magnificent gift will play a crucial role in creating the next generation of leaders of the Hispanic community,” said GW President Steven Knapp.

The institute will offer a pre-college program to high school juniors, with plus-factor consideration given to students of Hispanic heritage who are committed to leadership and service within the Hispanic community. Prior to their senior year in high school, students from around the country will participate in a summer workshop in Washington, D.C., and will learn about the fundamentals of enrolling at selective universities. In addition, they will engage in a variety of activities and experiences designed to increase their knowledge and interest in attending and graduating from a top university.

The institute, which is established through an endowed fund, will also provide college scholarships to select students, to be named Cisneros Scholars, who enroll at GW and demonstrate a commitment to leadership and community service and have aspirations to give back to the Hispanic community. Additionally, the institute will offer mentorship and support opportunities to the Cisneros Scholars and other students wishing to participate by connecting them with leaders and mentors within the Hispanic community.

“Undermatching [when students of high academic potential do not matriculate to selective universities] has become a significant problem for Hispanic students, and because of this, we're lacking much needed diversity in our future leaders," said Gil Cisneros. "My wife and I are excited to partner with GW to create a program that will help deserving students gain the leadership skills and confidence needed in order to apply to and attend a selective university."

"Our goal is to have the institute help these students feel more at home in a higher education environment, while providing them with mentorship programs and networking opportunities led by successful Hispanics in Washington," continued Cisneros. "By creating this type of supportive atmosphere, the students will be more inclined to get involved in university life, take on leadership roles and ultimately graduate, which will greatly assist them in reaching their full potential."

Within four years, the university hopes to enroll 20 Cisneros Scholars. Each entering class of students will be granted at least $250,000 in scholarships, which are renewable for four years. The university will welcome the first class of high school scholars in the summer of 2016 and the first enrolled full-time undergraduate students during the 2016-17 academic year.

The new institute complements the university’s focused efforts to look for new ways of encouraging college attendance by students from a variety of backgrounds and ensuring their success on campus, which is the cornerstone of the university’s Access and Success Task Force.

This gift comes from both Gil and Jacki Cisneros and the foundation that bears the Cisneros family name.

“I have always believed that since this university is the nation’s university, the students should be reflective of the nation’s population,” said Cisneros. “As more students begin to realize their dreams of higher education, the George Washington University will be able to educate the next group of citizen leaders—just as President George Washington once envisioned.”

“This transformative gift from our dear friends, Gil and Jacki Cisneros, is a real game changer," added Columbian College Dean Ben Vinson. "All of us look forward to the exciting work ahead."