What better education could a wine lover ask for than the chance to work and study in Burgundy? The Roots Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping minorities enter the wine industry, is now accepting applications for its “Rooted in France” scholarship, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ambitious BIPOC graduating college seniors who wish to dive into the wine industry abroad.
Hosted by the Burgundy School of Wine and Spirits Business, the year-long program allows students to pursue a Master’s degree in Wine Management or Wine & Spirits business. During the year, the scholarship will cover all transportation, living expenses and housing costs. Roots Fund CEO Ikimi Dubose-Woodson estimates that the scholarship is valued at around $350,000 annually, with support from partners such as Domaine Dujac, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Grand Cru Selections and the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.
This will be the fourth class of scholars since the foundation’s start. Dubose-Woodson notes the number of scholars has risen over the years. “When Jeremy Seysses [the co-owner of Domaine Dujac] first joined our board, we were trying to think of a valid pathway across the pond, something longstanding and to create impact, not only in the industry but in education,” Dubose-Woodson explained to Wine Spectator. “They are getting a cultural experience, but also an elevated educational experience. They have a ton of options after the program for job placement, helping them enter a field they might have previously thought was unattainable.”
Budding in Burgundy
The Burgundy School of Business, located in Dijon, is an international school, according to Dubose-Woodson, with students from outside of France representing over 25 percent of the student body. Not only will scholarship winners build relationships with classmates, but they will also come with a network of winemakers and industry professionals in Burgundy and beyond.
“There’s a level of access that you can’t measure,” said Dubose-Woodson. “Who else can call Dominique Lafon and say ‘let’s get lunch’ because it’s been a bad week at school? Or go to Roulot or Domaine de la Romanée-Conti? They get access that most people in the United States will never see, seeing some of Burgundy’s top domaines and talking to producers. All that helps guide them to the next path that lays ahead.”
Planting Seeds for a Career in Wine
During the year, the Roots Fund will work with students on internships and wine certifications. “It’s bigger than just getting a Master’s degree: you are living in a foreign country for 18 months, away from friends and family,” said Dubose-Woodson. “We’re looking for someone who wants to take the world by the reins.”
Qualified candidates will have either earned a business or hospitality degree or have graduated from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) by summer 2024. To Dubose-Woodson, the emphasis on reaching HBCU students is because many students do not have access to opportunities in the wine industry, and there is little programming by the way of hospitality or wine studies. “HBCU candidates are also superb, so why are we not telling them about these opportunities out in the beverage world?”
Founded in 2020, the Roots Fund is dedicated to supporting BIPOC professionals in the wine industry with resources and financial support, through educational scholarships, wine education, mentorship and job placement. Applications are now open until March 15. More information can be found at the Fund’s website.