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Scholarship alert: RIHousing Michael S. Van Leesten Fund

Angelina Coppola

Art Director

Image via Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

The Rhode Island General Assembly established RIHousing in 1973, an agency created to dedicate efforts towards addressing the housing issues that affect Rhode Islanders. Whether it be finding, renting, buying, keeping or building homes RIHousing helps people, especially underserved Rhode Islanders, with safe and affordable homes all while striving to improve equitable housing opportunities.

Along with the Rhode Island College Foundation, RIHousing has created the RIHousing Michael S. Van Leesten Fund, a $5000 scholarship in honor of Van Leesten’s work in housing and education. Through the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Rhode Island, a non-profit founded by Van Leesten, he offered career coaching, job training and support for small businesses in urban communities.

Van Leesten’s advocacy and leadership transformed the RIHousing agency into a more effective and accountable organization. The fund will support the next generation of housing leaders in continuing the work and values Van Leesten held during his lifetime. This opportunity is a chance for students studying, researching or doing work in the field of housing to be awarded funds supporting their education.

“This is a $5000 scholarship to support students of color pursuing education or training in fields related to housing, including but not limited to, finance, economics, architecture, engineering, public health, planning or public policy.” Pegah Rahmanian, Associate Dean of Students said about the scholarship. “The fund hopes to increase opportunities for members of racially underrepresented communities to learn about and participate both academically and professionally within fields connected to housing.”

In order to be eligible to apply, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants must be Rhode Island residents and enrolled at Rhode Island College.

  • Applicants must have a minimum of 2.5 GPA.

  • Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

  • Applicants must submit a written or video essay, no more than 500 words that evidences their commitment to the housing field.

The deadline to apply is Feb. 3 and can be applied by filling out this Google Form.

All applications will be reviewed by a committee of staff, faculty, a member of the Van Leesten family, as well as an employee of RIHousing. Applicants will be notified in March of the committee's decisions.

Any additional questions can be emailed to Rahmanian at


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