‌Aspire to make a difference. Excel and make change. 

The Excel! Mission

Helping the historically underrepresented be represented in graduate school. 


To educate through teaching and learning, to motivate through critical dialogue and success, to embrace opportunities that take us to the next levels, developing future scholars as leaders….inspiring one scholar at a time!

About the Program

The Excel! Research Scholars Program is designed to prepare undergraduate students for graduate school admission, the rigors of graduate studies, and to be competitive for graduate school funding through involvement in research and other scholarly activities starting in the summer through to the students graduation date at the University of St. Thomas.

Program Goal

The goal of the Excel! Research Scholars Program is to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented segments of society.

Excel! Targets

Excel! admits students who are first-generation college students, students with demonstrated high financial need as defined by the federal government, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education and have demonstrated strong academic potential.

We invite you to explore our website and learn more about how Excel! can help you. If you want to know more, you are encouraged to set up a meeting with the director, Cynthia Fraction, at frac2792@stthomas.edu. She will be happy to meet with you! 


Applications are now available for the 2019-2020 year. See the Eligibility and Application section for more information and materials. The application deadline is January 18, 2019 at 5:00 p.m 

Faculty, do you have a student who would benefit from this program? Tell us about him or her! Please fill out this short form so that we can get in contact with the student and encourage them to apply.   

Recent News

2018 Newsletter

Click to read the 2018 Excel! Research Scholars newsletter. ‌ 

Newsletter - Castor Center List Item Newsletter

Samuel Figueroa

Samuel Figueroa, another current scholar, was a tutor for the REAL Program here at St. Thomas in summer 2018. Click here to read more about the REAL Program. Sam will proudly take his seat in the fall 2019 incoming class of Juris Doctorate students at Trininty School of Law in California! Congratulations Sam! Sam plans to study law with emphasis on criminal law. His goal is to work with men of color who are incarcerated.    

Samuel Figueroa - Center List Item Figueroa

Dustyn Montgomery

Dustyn Montgomery, a 2017-2018 scholar, worked as a peer mentor this past summer for the nine current scholars. He was also featured on the St. Thomas Newsroom during his time in Excel. The story can be found here. Dustyn will also be leading a Vision Trip Spring 2019.  

Staffing Update

Spring 2019 Dustyn will take over temporarily as the Excel! Program Assistant, as Aileen will be studying abroad in Rome. Thank you Dustyn!   

Dustyn Montgomery - Castor Center List Item Montgomery

Marissa Abara and Bontu Gemeda

Current scholars, Marissa Abara and Bontu Gemeda, both have internships with the Rondo Community in St. Paul fall 2018. 

Marissa Abara and Bontu Gemeda - Castor List Item Marissa and Bontu

Erin Robb

Erin Robb, a 2018-2019 scholar, will be presenting her research at the State Capitol in February 2019. 

Erin Robb - Castor Center List item Erin Robb


Where Scholars are Headed

Trinh Ha

Trinh Ha, a 2015-2016 scholar, was recently admitted (Novmeber 2018) into the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities School of Pharmacy. Congratuations Trinh, we wish you much luck! 

Trinh - Trinh Ha Center list item

Hannah Drazenovich

Hannah Drazenovich, a 2016-2017 Excel! Scholar, has accepted a spot at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. She will begin her path to a M.D. fall 2018. Congratulations Hannah!   

Hannah Drazenovich - Drazenovich Center List Item

Ashley Demaio

Ashley Demaio has been admitted into the psychology masters program at Vanderbilt University fully funded! 

Ashley Demaio - Demaio Center List Item

Divine Zheng

Divine Zheng will begin at the University of Oregon School of Law this fall paritally funded. Way to go Divine!

Divine Zheng - Zheng Center List Item

Elizabeth DeNio

Elizabeth DeNio, a 2016-2017 scholar, has accepted a spot in the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology program.

Elizabeth DeNio - DeNio Center List Item



"Because of Excel, and because I was convinced that I can do something above average, something exceptional, I now see myself as a scholar. I would highly recommend this program to any undergraduate students who strive to see themselves that way."

Jonathan Santos "17

"Your (Ms. Cynthia) passion and commitment to serve us as students has inspired me to bring positive change for the future. Furthermore, I really appreciate your openess, confidence, and flexibility in assisting me to learn more about my role as a scholar. This experience was more than I could have imagined!"

Mai Eng Lee '12

"The information that I learned from Excel such as how to write a research paper, how to do an oral presentation, and how to make a poster helped me well for this summer (summer 2016). I would not be able to write a research paper, give a professional oral presentation, and construct a poster well without training from Excel! In addition, short training such as to be on time, how to connect with your mentor, how to do informational interviews with your mentor and other faculty, and time management have helped me. I want to say THANK YOU for everything that you have done for me and for pushing me to work hard. Thank you so much Miss. Cynthia."

Trinh Ha '17

"She (Ashley Demaio '18) gained confidnece in her ability to do the research. She sid a fabulous job learning how to find the resources and to find really good resorces to use. ...She became less of an observer and more of an active participant. She really was the researcher. That's the whole goal of this program.

Dr. Sara Hankerson

It's really opened my eyes to the differnet opportunities I have in my time here at St. Thomas. You know there are people fighting for you and rooting for you. Even in times where the research is tough, you know there are people that are supporting you and that good things will come out of it. Deep down they care not only about your research, but about you as a person and what you care about, which I think is super important. People get wrapped up in some things and it's more about what they're doing than who they are as a person; with the Excel! program they deeply care about you as an individual alongside your research."

Dustyn Montgomery '20