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Opening Doors To Higher Education

Mitchell Kapor, Founder, Lotus Development Corporation and Open Source Applications Foundation

Disturbed at the plight of gifted and talented students from underrepresented communities not making their way into UC Berkeley, Mitchell Kapor, widely known as founder of Lotus Development Corporation and the designer of Lotus 1-2-3, kicked off the “Level Playing Field Institute” to promote innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and workplaces.

As Mitchell strongly believes that business leaders come from the society as a whole, not just from the affluent and the elite, he launched a $100,000 challenge to inspire individual support for the IDEAL Scholars Fund, one of the flagship programs of the "Level Playing Field Institute". This generous challenge grant directly benefits promising students from underrepresented communities attending UC Berkeley through scholarship support, tutoring, computer resources, and campus-life advising. As an enthusiastic and passionate supporter of education programs, he is concerned with providing access and opportunity to those who face extraordinary obstacles that hinder the ability to fulfill their life's goals.

SMASH Concept

Mitchell and his spouse Freada Kapor Klein have also generously agreed to support the Summer Math & Science Honors Academy, another program of the Level Playing Field Institute, in its start up phase, allowing this innovative program a chance to flourish while diversifying its funding sources. Freada Klein co-founded the Academy – also known as SMASH – in 2003.

SMASH is a three-year academic enrichment program, with a six week summer residency on the UC Berkeley campus and academic support activities for students throughout the school year. It assists talented high school students from underrepresented populations to become competitive and successful in science, technology, math, and engineering studies at the University of California or selective colleges and universities. Students attend science, math, and English classes. They also conduct lab experiments, meet math and science professionals, take educational and recreational field trips, and build community in a university environment.

Recognizing Talent

"Children of privilege enter college having been afforded so many opportunities the playing field is tilted in their favor. Their equally talented and deserving counterparts from the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum have already had to overcome much greater obstacles simply to gain admission to UC Berkeley. We must make sure these students who represent our best hope for the future have the same chance to continue their success, achieve their potential, and contribute to society," says Mitchell. He believes that programs like SMASH and IDEAL are essential to ensure that tomorrow's professional, academic, and business leaders come from society as a whole, not just the affluent and the elite. He envisages, “A truly meritocratic society ought to recognize talent and afford opportunity to young people regardless of their circumstances of origin."

For more information on College Access/Higher Education Programs at the Level Playing Field Institute, visit the website at www.lpfi.org. Please call Cedric Brown, Director of Higher Education Programs, with questions: 415-946-3023.

With a wide variety of life experiences, Mitchell Kapor has made “access” part of his own life’s mission. Currently, he is President and Chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation, a non-profit organization he started in 2001 to promote the development and acceptance of high-quality application software developed and distributed using open source methods and licenses. In 1982, he founded Lotus Development Corporation, for which he is most noted. While there, he revolutionized corporate workplace culture by making diversity and inclusivity top priorities in his goal for creating an environment that attracted and retained employees. There were many “firsts” for Lotus, including being the first company to sponsor an AIDS Walk event in the mid-80’s and refusing to do business with South Africa due to Apartheid. Eight years later, Mitch co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties organization working in the public interest to protect privacy, free expression, and access to public resources and information online, as well as to promote responsibility in new media. He currently sits on the board of the Mozilla Foundation and the Level Playing Field Institute. Mitch can be reached for article feedback at: mitch@osafoundation.org


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