aerial view of campus from the west showing all of campus and the Wasatch Mountains in the background with snow on the peaks.

Making dreams possible

As a first-year student in high school, Tayla Chiang started volunteering at the hospital. By her sophomore year, she had already set up research opportunities with professors at the U, eventually participating in a summer program on campus. Following high school graduation, she enrolled at the University of Utah and was invited to participate in a program for women who are incoming first-year students interested in STEM. Chiang was well on her way to becoming the doctor that her younger self had always envisioned.

With that level of ambition, it’s not surprising that Chiang is now a highly involved and motivated senior at the U. You may find her giving a tour on campus or helping students as a campus life mentor.

Despite her impressive experience and disposition for medicine at a young age, there was a time in her life when the possibility of accessing a college education seemed out of reach. Chiang is a first-generation college student who was unsure how to afford higher education, but her scholarship search was motivated by her mother’s advice, “Tayla, you need to pursue an education. Get a degree where you can support yourself and then do something that you love.”

A door opened when Chiang’s mentor recommended that she apply to the Larry H. and Gail Miller Enrichment Scholarship. One of the most comprehensive and generous scholarship programs on campus, Chiang was selected to be a Miller Enrichment Scholar and said being part of the program “feels like a dream.”

“It includes tuition, housing, books and fees, but they also want to make sure the students who have the scholarship feel supported,” said Chiang. The scholarship is awarded to students who will contribute to an educationally diverse environment at the University of Utah and are the first in their families to attend college.

Generously funded by the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, the Miller Enrichment Scholarship has been supporting students for the past 20 years and has awarded a total of 216 scholarships.

“Receiving an education can help transform a young person’s life,” said Gail Miller, chair of the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation. “It’s amazing to see each student grow and accomplish their goals throughout their time at the University of Utah. The world needs more leaders like these students who aspire to make the world a better place.”

The first cohort was selected in the 2002-03 academic year and was comprised of 11 students. Twenty years later, there were 552 applicants for the 2022-23 academic year cohort that had 13 available spots.

“We’re so glad more students are learning about this incredible scholarship opportunity,” said Lori McDonald, vice president for student affairs. “It is truly a transformative gift from the Miller family that has allowed hundreds of students to not only earn a degree, but to experience all that a University of Utah education has to offer.”

Chiang is particularly grateful for the Miller Enrichment Scholarship because it allows her to explore the full college experience.

“It has provided me so many opportunities to get involved with research, with volunteering and everything,” said Chiang. The program also creates a sense of community and belonging with the other Miller Enrichment Scholars and provides professional networking activities, including an opportunity to meet with leadership from the Larry H. Miller Company. Carolyn Hebert, who administers the program and provides valuable support to the students, said, “Miller Enrichment Scholars make strong connections with other students, professors and administrators. They join groups, learn to be leaders, and mentor younger scholars.”

Reflecting on her experience, Chiang looks forward to the future. “I'm really proud of being a first-generation college student. I just love that I'm different compared to other people because that's what makes me, me. When I become a doctor, I really want to teach students and teach people of color. I would love to do some outreach programs and help the younger generation believe they can pursue medicine.”

Thanks to the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, more than 200 students have had access to an education and resources they may have thought impossible. As we celebrate the 20th year of this incredible program, we look forward to welcoming new cohorts of Miller Scholars for years to come.

Learn more about the Larry H. and Gail Miller Enrichment Scholarship and how to apply here.

You can also hear more of Chiang’s experience in her own words here: