05 Nov 2021

2013/2021: A Choice Made Possible for 107 Bocconians

2013/2021: A Choice Made Possible for 107 Bocconians

Nine years after its launch, una scelta possibile (a possible choice) has financially supported the study of over one hundred students, 20 for the 2021/2022 academic year. This is a project with a high social impact, which complements other forms of funding aimed at bridging social disadvantage

The name the project, Una Scelta Possibile (A Possible Choice), aims to make sure that it’s possible for students of all backgrounds to study at Bocconi, even if they are socially disadvantaged. The project, born in 2013 as part of the activities of the Bocconi Committee on Community and Social Engagement, is now in its ninth edition. It has involved 107 young people since its inception, going from 5 students assisted in in the first editions to 20 first-year students targeted for funding in the 2021-2022 academic year. There are currently 46 students benefiting from Una Scelta Possibile scholarships. They are invariably motivated students. In the first years of the project, they came exclusively from Milan and Lombardy, thanks also to coordination with local high schools in poorer neighborhoods, now they are from all over Italy and there are now scholarships also for Master of Science degrees.

The scholarships, which are financed in part thanks to the support of University donors, guarantee a 100% exemption from tuition and fees, a €5,000 stipend, free accommodation in Bocconi dorms, discounted meals and support throughout the years of study, also for international exchange programs.

"In these years, we have enabled many young people to study with peace of mind," explains the president of the University's Community and Social Engagement Committee, Salvio Vicari. "Speaking with them, I realize that many have managed to realize a dream that seemed unattainable, and in doing so, in many cases they have also managed to turn around their family situation." The success of the program is evident: "Almost all of these students have managed to complete their studies, often with excellent results, although this is not a specific objective of the program. We have been able to help young people who otherwise would have not have attended Bocconi, and have activated forms of social support and upward mobility that could further evolve in the future."

The 107 Una Scelta Possibile students include Zakaria Bekkali, a graduate of the BSc in International Politics and Government, who then completed a MSc in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and now has a job in consultancy in Milan. “My parents arrived in Italy from Morocco in their twenties, my father as an industrial worker in Bergamo and my mother as an industrial worker in Turin. They then moved to the province of Milan, where I was born," says the alumnus. “I have always been very motivated in my studies, I graduated from a liceo scientifico (science-based high school) with full honors.” But the more he worked hard and succeeded in his studies, the more he realized he suffered what he calls 'the narrative of exception:' "When you are an immigrant you always have to work harder than everyone else to prove you can sit at the table, it’s a kind of overcompensation, common to many social minorities." But this is also what pushed and motivated him even more: “I have always yearned for a career in international organizations. I felt the need to be an ambassador of my culture and I wanted my work to have a social impact, so when I passed the admissions test at Bocconi and was able to actually enroll thanks to the scholarship, I chose the BSc in International Politics." Aware of the great opportunity he was given (“I never thought I could enroll at Bocconi”), he has pondered “to what extent social mobility is ultimately a question of education,” so much that he wrote his thesis on it.

During his Bocconi years, again thanks to the support of the scholarship, Zakaria went to Princeton for a semester as an exchange student, and after he completed his undergraduate studies he decided on a master in Public Administration at LSE. Now he is back in Milan to gain experience in consulting at McKinsey. Looking back, and recalling the interviews with Bocconi that his father accompanied him to ("I can't help you in your studies, but I can drive you there, he told me") and thinking back to the pride in his eyes, Zakaria underlines this point: "To give the tools and the opportunity to show what you are worth, this is the essence behind Una Scelta Possible.”

Moreover, the issue of social mobility through education is the common denominator of other University projects. 1StGEN@UNI is a project in the same spirit. Bocconi inaugurated it at the beginning of 2021 together with Citi Foundation. The idea is to give disadvantaged students at Italian high schools the chance to attend Bocconi. The initiative involved about 450 students from 60 schools. 180 have decided to join the second phase in which they will attend orientation sessions on Bocconi and get information on the admissions test. Those of them who pass it and demonstrate that they meet the requirements will be able eligible for the Una Scelta Possibile scholarships.

Another important project "is the one that since 2016 has seen several Bocconi professors give lectures at the penitentiary in Opera, a town near Milan," explains Vicari. The initiative is as simple as it is effective: in agreement with the prison administration, inmates with sentences of over five years are encouraged to start university studies, providing not only intellectual enrichment, but also, in the future, the possibility of finding employment thanks to a Bocconi degree." In 2020, the first inmate graduated with a degree in business administration and management.

Bocconi has several social projects and multiple commitments, but a single overarching goal: to ensure that more and more people experience upward social mobility, lifting students and their families from economic difficulty.