College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Development Office

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IVCA Scholarship

Winners of the Illinois Venture Capital Association (IVCA) internship scholarship are getting an inside glimpse into some of the most prestigious capital and private equity firms in the country.

Established by IVCA, a trade association representing the $100 billion venture capital and private equity community in Illinois, the IVCA Scholar Program was created in 2007 to draw interest among minority students in a venture capital or private equity career. The scholarship is unique in that it’s awarded to undergraduate students, giving them an opportunity to rub elbows with some powerful principals and partners in the industry.

Maura O’Hara ’84, Executive Director of the Illinois Venture Capital Association, said the scholarship was created to provide minorities a look into careers in venture capital and private equity earlier, rather than later, in their studies.

“We realized minorities are underrepresented in our business and that we could and should do something about it,” O’Hara said. “We created the scholarship to inform undergraduate students of the opportunities in the industry so we could help influence their career decisions and the courses and education they’ll need to pursue if they adopt this career.”

The IVCA Scholar Program awards scholarships valued at $15,000 per student: $5,000 toward general tuition and fees, and the option of accepting a 10-week summer internship at a Chicago-area venture capital or private equity firm with $10,000 in compensation.

Scholarship winners include Lesley Winbush, an accounting major who entered her junior year in fall 2007, interning with ARCH Venture Partners; Ashton Clark, a general business student who entered his sophomore year in fall 2007, interning with Baird Private Equity; and Peter Alonso, 2007 accountancy alumnus, accepted into the master of science in accountancy program, interning with Thoma Cressey Bravo.

In a recent interview and IVCA article, scholarship winner Alonso said he discovered that the learning curve coming straight out of school is “immense.”

“Before I started the internship, I had a broad understanding of what a private equity firm did. I am now learning in greater detail how deals are sourced, transactions are executed, and how portfolio companies are monitored. My goal by the end of the summer is to get as far up the curve as I can.” Merrick Axel, principal at Thoma Cressey Bravo,

Merrick Axel, principal at Thoma Cressey Bravo, said Alonso is an integral part of the support programs for investment teams, particularly in a research capacity.

He admitted the firm has never had an undergraduate intern, but as an active partner with IVCA, Thoma Cressey Bravo was excited to be involved in the first year of the scholarship program.

“It’s a great opportunity for any young student to be a part of the inner workings of private equity and see the thinking that goes along with being an investor,” Axel said.


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