Kessler Scholars Program

Kessler Presidential Scholars Program

Welcoming our inaugural cohort in fall 2020, Syracuse University is proud to join the consortium of colleges and universities who are transforming the first-generation student experience with the Kessler Scholars Program. Through the Kessler Scholars Program, an exceptional group of Syracuse University students who are the first in their family to go to college receive four years of support to help them succeed at Syracuse University and beyond.

First established at the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and Arts by Fred and Judy Wilpon, the Kessler Scholars Program has grown as the leading scholarship program for first-generation students. The program is distinct in that it provides comprehensive support through wrap-around, multi-tiered services to ensure students’ success from the moment they enroll to after graduation.

Huey Hsiao, Associate Director

Huey Hsiao

Huey Hsiao serves as the associate director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Kessler Presidential Scholars Program.  In his role, he provides leadership and direction on programming that enriches Syracuse University's diverse campus culture and results in students' academic, social and personal success.

In addition, Huey leads the nationally recognized WellsLink Leadership Program, and coordinates the University’s annual celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  Huey also serves on the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence and the Chancellor’s Ad Hoc Committee on DACA/Undocumented Students; and he is the Student Liaison for DACA/Undocumented students and students with "mixed-status families." As of fall 2020, Huey also assists with supporting the Disability Cultural Center, and he served as the interim director in 2019.

Huey has nearly two decades of experience in higher education in roles spanning diversity and inclusion, student success, international education, advising, enrollment and recruiting.  From 2006 to 2011, he served as assistant director of student services for M.B.A. and M.S. programs at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management.  Prior to joining the University, he held multiple positions with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) (1999-2004), including program advisor and program officer and enrollment officer, in addition to a semester abroad as assistant resident director at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan.  He also taught English-as-a-Second-Language at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, through the Colorado China Council (1997-1998).

Huey was born and raised in North Haven, CT.  He received a bachelor's degree in biology and an Asian studies certificate from the University of Rochester.  He earned an M.B.A. from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain.

Breana Nieves Vergara, Coordinator of Mentoring Programs

Headshot of Breana Vergara

Breana Nieves Vergara joined the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) in July 2021. As coordinator of mentoring programs, Breana is responsible for maintaining both the fullCIRCLE and Dimensions mentoring programs, as well as leading Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month and supporting the Kessler Presidential Scholars Program.

Breana received a bachelor’s degree in sociology with minors in Latinx studies and education studies from Ithaca College. During her time at Ithaca College, she was a part of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, which provided her with the opportunity to pursue a year-long Helen Gurley Brown fellowship post-graduation. As a Syracuse native who was previously an On Point for College student herself, Breana worked for the organization and served as the programming fellow where she created and coordinated their mentorship program.

Breana is interested in initiatives that focus on guiding students on their academic journeys, as well as creating an environment that encourages identity development and fosters community. In her free time, Breana enjoys spending time with her partner, and their cats, Fernando and Oliver.  She also enjoys exploring waterfalls, trying new recipes and reading ethnographies.

Victoria Munley '21, Academic Consultant

Victoria Munley portrait

Victoria Munley graduated from Syracuse University in May of 2021 with a Bachelor of Music in music education, and a minor in disability studies. She is currently a Master’s student in the Cultural Foundations of Education Program, within the School of Education. Throughout her undergraduate career, Syracuse University has allowed her to explore her passions in racial and disability justice, mentorship, advocacy, and empowering students of color. Through her previous involvement on campus as an Orientation Leader, a College of Visual and Performing Arts Ambassador, a University 100 tour guide, a sister of Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc., a Remembrance Scholar, and a performer in various choral and a cappella ensembles, Victoria continues to utilize these various experiences to inform her on how she can better positively impact her campus community, and beyond. Prior to serving as an academic consultant for the Kessler Scholars Program, Victoria has previously served on campus as a summer intern for the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs, assisting in the planning and facilitation of Syracuse Welcome. In her free time, Victoria enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, binge-watching reality TV shows, and trying new places to eat.

As part of the Kessler Scholars Program, we provide students with significant scholarship aid, dedicated support and services, robust opportunities for community-building and leadership development, and a laptop. This includes exclusive access to career-enrichment opportunities, service projects, social events,  a peer mentor and dedicated staff. Kessler Scholars also receive financial support to study through one of the University's off-campus programs (international study abroad location, New York City, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.).

Seminar Topics

  • Team Building with Barnes Center - Recreation
  • Goal Setting & Time Management
  • Starting Early with Career Preparation
  • Community Service with the Office of Engagement Programs
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Navigating First Semester as First-Generation College Student
  • Health and Wellness with Barnes Center - Health Promotion
  • Kessler Scholars Motivational Challenge Coin Ceremony
  • Looking Back and Ahead (Timeline and Goals Map (Short and Long-Term Goals))
  • Mental Health and Stress Management
  • Managing Imposter Syndrome
  • Healthy Relationships and Sexual Health
  • Networking and Career Planning During COVID-19
  • Learning about Undergraduate Research with the SOURCE
  • First-Gen Alumni Panel Discussion and Networking
  • Financial Literacy Basics
  • Meet & Network with Administrators and Learn More About Campus Resources

The Kessler Scholars are a close-knit community of well-rounded, talented students who identify as first-generation, or the first in their immediate family to go to college. Each year, Syracuse University selects 15–20 incoming first-generation students to join the Kessler Scholars Program.

Meet Kelvin Boakye, 2020 Kessler Scholar

Kelvin Boayke headshot

Who would've thought my first semester of college would be like this? Being a first generation student is hard enough because no one in my family has been to college but being a first gen plus COVID is a whole new experience. My time here has made me feel a new sense of independence that I wasn’t used to before. They always said you’re going to fail your first college exam and I failed pretty hard but it wasn’t anything but a learning lesson. Kessler’s presentation on effective studying helped me realize studying isn’t just rereading my notes, but it is trying to find extra problems to help me out. Kessler has pushed me to learn the material as opposed to memorize it.

At times, we forget that college isn’t all about studying but it’s about hanging out with friends and building community too. One of the sessions, we talked about not feeling guilty about spending time outside of work and just taking a breather. I’ve been learning to do that more often and have tried some restaurants downtown so that I’m taking time for myself and my friends.

Being a first generation student is not a disadvantage, if anything it makes us stronger because we use what we learn here and take it back home to impact our own families and communities. It’s only the first semester, so what if you didn’t find your friend group, so what if you didn’t go out as much, you have a friend group in all of us and we will continue on our journey for the next four years!

Kessler Scholars must be full-time enrolled students at Syracuse University who identify as first-generation.

All Kessler Scholars will participate in SummerStart, a six-week residential program that takes place prior to the start of the fall semester.

In addition, scholars must maintain a 3.0 GPA; participate in the program-sponsored workshops, group gatherings and special events; attend regular meetings with peer mentors and staff;  and engage in volunteering and community service projects.