Puksta Foundation

About the Award

Puksta Scholars is a competitive scholarship program open to DU undergraduate students. Each year, a small cohort of students are awarded the scholarship with the explicit purpose to serve as catalysts for positive change on campus and in our local, national and international communities.

The Puksta Scholars Program requires meaningful commitment to community work; development of civic skills; and the creation of sustainable community partnerships, mentor relationships and public work projects. While scholars work on independent or small group public work projects, they also work together as a larger Puksta community, supporting and mentoring one another and taking leadership of the program itself in collaboration with staff from DU's Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL).

Scholars are supported to integrate their academics, personal interests, skills, and career preparation with the development of their civic identity and accountability to social justice values and movements. This is accomplished using the community organizing model and includes curricular and co-curricular personal and civic development training, personal and group critical reflection and mentoring.

Current Puksta Scholars say they value the meaningful commitment to community-engaged social justice work that is strengthened by biweekly (every two weeks) program meetings, mentorship and group collaboration. They also enjoy the inclusive community, which provides a sense of solidarity amongst diverse individuals and an engaging and fun atmosphere that promotes long-term friendships and personal growth.

The University of Denver Puksta Scholars Program works closely with the Puksta Scholars Programs at Colorado State University, Metro State University of Denver, and University of Colorado Boulder. All four programs are generously funded by the Puksta Foundation.

Core Concepts

Building Public Relationships

Working for change requires the building of meaningful public relationships—with those with whom we agree with and those with whom we disagree. Students learn to develop a public life and engage in one-to-ones, power mapping, relationship building, and mentoring on campus and in the community.

Civic Leadership

Solving community-based problems requires a non-traditional style of leadership, where students work collaboratively across differences, and lead with and not for others in the community. It also requires the development and activation of personal values in dialogue with shared democratic values such as justice, equality, and responsibility to the common good.

Public Work

Systemic social change takes time, and it requires a community to dig deep into root causes, to work strategically and use power creatively. Puksta Scholars work with the community to co-create tangible, sustainable public work that is part of a larger movement to achieve our collective democratic values for more just communities.

Eligibility Information

The Puksta Scholars Program allows Colorado students with financial need to pursue a college education and develop a civic identity and commitment. The Puksta Scholarship is awarded annually to four incoming first-year students who are Colorado residents (defined as having graduated from a Colorado high school).

The annual scholarship of $6,000 is renewable for four years. In addition, each Puksta Scholar has access to grants for trainings, conferences, public projects, and paid summer internships.

For more information on what it is like to be in the Puksta Scholars Program, read our Puksta Profiles.

Application Process

Application for the 2023 cycle opens in January and typically closes mid-March. 


Incoming first-year students who are Colorado residents—as defined by having graduated from a Colorado high school and have financial need—can apply for the Puksta Scholars Program after receiving their letter of acceptance from DU's Office of Admission.

Selection Criteria

Puksta Scholars are selected based on their ability to articulate a personal commitment to democratic values of justice, equality and responsibility to the common good, ability to critically reflect on their experiences, identity, community, and critically evaluate their behavior as it relates to their core values, a desire to learn civic skills, be a part of a diverse community, engage with difference, and practice their commitment to civic engagement and academics (must maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher as a Puksta Scholar).

Selection Process

Applications are reviewed by the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), and qualifying applicants will be invited for personal interviews on campus. Financial need is evaluated by DU's Office of Financial Aid.

Interview Preparation

Interview tips and guidelines are available here.

Please send questions about the application process to puksta@du.edu.

students standing around in a gallery

The 2022 Puksta Application is now closed

Check back in early 2023 for next year's application cycle

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