New Garmin Scholars Program Fuels Opportunity

Kao Family Foundation Establishes Garmin Scholars Program at UMKC

The Kao Family Foundation has donated $50,000 to establish a new scholarship program at the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering to increase opportunities for underrepresented students and escalate innovation in the field.

Min H. Kao, the co-founder and executive chairman of Garmin, and his wife, Fan, established the Kao Family Foundation to improve education standards, promote social welfare activities and enhance civic morality. The organization is focused on a results-driven approach to long term sustainable development.

The Garmin Scholars Program establishes scholarships to fund five full-time underrepresented students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher for up to $2,000 a year for five years.

“One of our goals of this partnership was to increase career awareness in engineering,” says Laurie Minard, vice president, human resources at Garmin. “We have career opportunities in electrical, mechanical and software engineering, and we want to be an employer of choice. Partnering with UMKC makes sense. The university is right here in our backyard.”

In addition to the scholarship, Garmin Scholars will have the opportunity to intern at the company if they choose.

“We want to invest in students and give them exposure to a local company that is doing amazing things,” Minard says. “We are hoping they will appreciate what it’s like to work here and want to be a part of Garmin on a full-time basis once they graduate.”

Participating in career fairs for internships is one way Garmin is escalating intern recruitment at the university.

“We want to get in front of UMKC students and let them know that there are opportunities – right here in Kansas City – available for them at Garmin.”

Minard says their five different business segments allow Garmin to provide experience in areas as broad as aviation, automotive, fitness, marine and outdoor recreation.

“We want to connect engineers who are passionate about the products we make with the opportunity to contribute to innovation in the features and functionality of those products.”

Minard notes that the growing demand for technology that is increasingly complex – and able to be used in smaller and smaller devices – escalates their need for well-trained associates.

“We have great people in leadership positions at Garmin who graduated from UMKC,” Minard says. “And we’ve seen that under Dean Truman’s leadership, the programs are increasingly better.”

The development of the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center furthered Garmin’s enthusiasm for UMKC graduates.

“We’ve toured the labs and seen the new technology being used,” she says. “Having that level of experience in Kansas City is a huge plus, as our interns and associates wouldn’t need to relocate.”

Kevin Truman, dean of the School of Computing and Engineering, says expanding the relationship with Garmin benefits UMKC as well.

“There’s increased opportunity on both sides,” Truman says. “UMKC gains through our students’ exposure to Garmin’s experience with commercializing technology, in biometrics and wearables, all the way up to their auto-land and aviation flight simulator. Garmin has access to our research teams, who are doing cutting edge research, particularly in the defense sector.”

Minard says that seeing the technology at the Plaster Center in person and talking to students studying there expanded Garmin’s perception of the opportunities with UMKC.

“I wanted our engineering and IT leaders to take time out and see how advanced and exciting the technologies at the Plaster Center are,” she says. “Seeing the scope of projects that the students are working on really opened their eyes.”

Minard notes that Garmin’s great benefits and educational assistance for their associates who want to pursue advanced degrees are additional benefits for UMKC graduates.

“The relationship between UMKC and Garmin is already strong and mutually beneficial,” Truman says. “This scholarship is a critical next step. We look forward to more and more of our students having the opportunity to intern and work for Garmin. Beyond that, we see mutual value in strengthening our relationship with their product developers to provide state-of-the-art research to benefit their products and further their success as well.”