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The Markel Specialty Scholarship

A scholarship reaffirming Markel’s commitment to providing equitable access to education.


Markel believes that education enables self-determination and the ability to realize personal potential. High-achieving students with limited means are the embodiment of both of these concepts. That’s why Markel is focused on promoting career development by improving access to education—regardless of a person’s financial situation or background—and ensuring underrepresented groups have a path to success.

Attracting diverse talent to the insurance industry

Reflecting Markel’s commitment to equity in education and diversity in the insurance industry, the Markel Specialty leadership team introduced the Markel Specialty Scholarship in September 2020. The scholarship awards one-time tuition aid to a rising college senior at a partner school within five of the six Markel Specialty regions. Markel Specialty’s sixth region is currently working to identify a partner school.

“The Markel Specialty Scholarship is about broadening the appeal of insurance and creating a pool of candidates from different backgrounds and experiences who are aware of Markel and interested in working at Markel when they graduate college,” said Steve Girard, Markel Specialty Regional President, Mid-Atlantic Region. “We may not be able to hire all the scholarship recipients, but at least they are aware that Markel supports careers in risk management and insurance, and diversity and inclusion within that segment.”

Along with providing financial support to award recipients, Markel Specialty’s regional underwriting teams work with each partner school on ways to educate students about insurance careers and early career opportunities with Markel.

“Through these scholarships, we want to develop relationships with the partner schools so that we can develop a talent pipeline to Markel,” remarked Mary Allen Waller, Markel’s Global Director of Community Engagement.

“Our goal is to be a presence on their campuses and attract talented students to our industry. We plan to host on-campus events with Markel employees providing information about the insurance industry, our company, and training that students might be interested in.”

Scholarship qualifications and partner schools

To become a Markel Specialty Scholar, students must be a rising college senior identifying with an underrepresented group within the insurance industry and be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program or a concentration in risk management and insurance. Eligible students must also have intentions to pursue a specialty insurance career, demonstrate leadership abilities, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and write a one-page essay on what the Markel Style means to them. The university scholarship manager at each partner school handles the selection process, determining who meets the scholarship’s full qualifications and application requirements.

Markel has made a long-term commitment to award the scholarship at the following schools: Appalachian State University (Mid-Atlantic Region), Illinois State University (Midwest Region), St. John’s University (Northeast Region), the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (West Region), and the University of Texas at Dallas (Mid South Region). Markel Specialty leadership in each region identified these partner schools based on Markel’s relationship with each school’s faculty and administrators, whether the institution offers a risk management and insurance major, and whether the school currently has diversity and inclusion initiatives and/or is willing to work with Markel to collaborate on such initiatives.

The partner schools award the scholarships during the recipients’ junior year, giving students advance notice of the financial support they will have for their senior year.

The first Markel Specialty Scholars

Appalachian State was one of the first partner schools to announce its Markel Specialty Scholarship recipient, selecting Jacqueline Salinas in April 2021.

A double major, Jacqueline is enrolled in Appalachian State’s finance and banking program and its risk management and insurance program.

“Growing up with immigrant parents who were not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to receive a college degree, education was very much valued and emphasized for my siblings and me,” Jacqueline said. “My long-term goal is financial stability and financial literacy for myself and my family.”

Other recipients for the 2021-2022 academic year include Nitin Basra, a senior studying quantitative risk management at St. John’s University; Silpita Pochiraju, a senior studying business administration with a concentration in risk management and insurance at the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas; and Laura Botero, an Illinois State University student serving as the director of diversity and inclusion for the school’s Gamma Iota Sigma chapter.

“I am extremely grateful to have been recognized with the Markel Specialty Scholarship,” said Laura. “All of the hard work that Markel Specialty is doing to allow diversity and inclusion to shine in the insurance industry is greatly appreciated. This financial help shows that I have been taking the right steps for a successful career, and it will allow me to achieve all my professional goals.”

The future of the Markel Specialty Scholarship

After receiving positive feedback from the first Markel Specialty Scholars and partner schools, Steve hopes the scholarship continues to attract diverse talent. “We want this scholarship to be the gold standard in the industry,” Steve remarked. “Many partner schools did not offer diversity and inclusion scholarships in their risk management program.”

The Markel Specialty Scholarship also will build on Markel’s legacy of philanthropy and reaffirm its commitment to supporting equity in education and diversity within the insurance industry. “With this scholarship as the first step, we can develop closer relationships with each partner school,” Mary Allen said. “This enables us to feed our internship programs, advance our early job and career opportunities, and be more engaged with our communities in those locations. It’s a really good way to extend our community engagement in those locations.”


Markel’s history of philanthropy for education


Markel has a long legacy of supporting education at all levels of learning. From the first endowment at Virginia State University in 1995 to the Markel Specialty Scholarship in 2020, Markel has continuously provided financial support for equitable access to education. Here are some examples:

Funding college endowments and scholarships

Bermuda Foundation For Insurance Studies (BFIS) | Markel has been a donor and an internship sponsor of BFIS since 2000.

Reynolds Community College | In 2007, Markel partnered with Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, to create Markel Business Scholars, a scholarship fund for community college business students. To date, the fund has provided tuition support to 22 students.

Spencer Educational Foundation | Markel has been a donor since 2009.

St John’s University, Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management | Markel has been a donor and event sponsor since 2005.

Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) | Markel has donated to the VFIC since 1991. Markel employees have served on the VFIC Board of Trustees since 2008.

Virginia State University | In 1995, Markel established an endowment with Virginia State University, a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Petersburg, Virginia. The Markel Scholarship Fund has provided financial support to 31 students.

Helping high school students through workforce development programs

Cristo Rey High School | In 2019, Markel expanded its support of high school work-study internships to aid students attending Cristo Rey High School in Richmond, Virginia. Markel hosts three Cristo Rey students during the school year for work-study internships and provides financial support for the program.

Junior Achievement (JA) | Markel has been a long-time supporter of Junior Achievement. Since 2002, Markel has provided financial support and numerous hours of employee volunteer time for the JA Bowl-A-Thon, JA in a Day, the JA Finance Park, and ethic and financial literacy training.

Partnership for the Future (PFF) | Markel has supported PFF since Alan Kirshner created this not-for-profit college preparation and workforce development program in 1994. PFF provides paid summer internships and skills-building programs throughout a participating student’s high school years. The program also enables first-generation college students to fulfill their dream of a college education. Markel hosts 8 to 10 interns each summer and contributes substantial financial support to sustain PFF’s operations, which are located at the company’s headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.

Supporting various schools and organizations

Markel has also supported other schools and school-related programs over the years, including the Bermuda Centre for Creative Learning (Hamilton, Bermuda), Henrico Education Foundation Inc. (Richmond, Virginia), the New Community School (Richmond, Virginia), The READ Center (Richmond, Virginia), Communities in Schools (Richmond, Virginia), and St. Andrews Elementary School (Richmond, Virginia).

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