Joseph N. Sanberg Provides Scholarships, Mentoring for Seven UCR Public Policy Graduate Students

Entrepreneur’s scholarship funding aims to transform civic leadership in the Inland Empire and beyond

joe sanberg with 7 scholarship recipients

Entrepreneur Joseph N. Sanberg (seated on rock) is flanked by Abraham Rice Scholars (from left) Naomi Soto, Jessica May, Violeta Aguilar-Wyrick, Daniel Peeden, Darrell Peeden, School of Public Policy Dean Anil Deolalikar, Jesse Melgar and Tyler Madary. Sanberg has funded seven, two-year scholarships for Master of Public Policy students at UCR.Photos by Carrie Rosema

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Entrepreneur, investor and Orange County native Joseph N. Sanberg has funded seven, two-year graduate student scholarships in the University of California, Riverside’s School of Public Policy.

The scholarships are funded through Sanberg’s quarter-million-dollar investment in the school and will be named after his maternal grandfather, Abraham “Manny” Rice, a successful Orange County businessman who was the youngest of 15 children born to Ukrainian immigrants in Chicago.

Manny Rice lived by a simple code: Work hard. Take risks. Be humble. Give back. Face the unknown with courage. This code summarizes what Sanberg hopes these Master of Public Policy students will use to transform the Inland Empire, the state and the nation.

“My grandfather shaped my sense of the possible,” Sanberg said. “He grew up in a dirt-poor family in Chicago, but he didn’t look at his future as constrained. He looked at it as a blank slate. He was an optimist. He believed that to lead a full life you need the ability to walk into the darkness, the unknown. The result is that you get to live an interesting, consequential life.”

Sanberg, a graduate of Harvard University, is co-founder and chair of the board of advisors for, a digital financial services platform for the American middle class ranked fourth on Fast Company’s list of the World’s 10 Most Innovative Finance Companies. He also is a founding investor in Blue Apron, a fast-growing provider of home-delivered, moderately priced, ready-to-prepare meals for individuals and families, and is actively involved in a range of other fast growing companies described on his website, He serves as chairman of the board of the Jefferson Awards Foundation and sits on the advisory board of the UCR School of Public Policy.

Sanberg also chairs the “CalEITC4Me” public-private partnership to support maximum usage of California’s first state earned income tax credit for hard-working, low-income households.

A graduate of Servite High School in Anaheim, Sanberg has created an International Leadership Program at the school that supports students learning Mandarin and visiting China. He also serves on the board of Casa Teresa, a nonprofit organization in Orange, Calif., that provides a temporary home and comprehensive on-going support for pregnant women and their children.

joe sanberg with students

During a recent dinner meeting with Abraham Rice Scholarship recipients, Joe Sanberg encouraged the M.P.P. students to be the change agents needed to transform the Inland Empire.

“Joe has been an incredible supporter and advocate of the School of Public Policy,” said Anil Deolalikar, dean of the school. “He is a deep thinker, and a wonderful role model for our students.”

The School of Public Policy is a change agent for the Inland Empire, and its graduates will have the skills and the passion needed to transform the region as they assume leadership roles in government service, said Sanberg, a 36-year-old entrepreneur who has made it his life’s goal to eradicate poverty in California.

“I don’t think that one person can change the course of a community, but it also doesn’t take 10,000 people,” Sanberg said, adding that as more individuals graduate from the M.P.P. program they will “change civic life in the region.”

For Sanberg, funding the Abraham Rice Scholars is only the first step. He intends to meet with the scholarship recipients throughout their time at UCR, hoping to “provoke them to think about ideas and opportunities in new and different ways about what they can do in their lives, to challenge conventional wisdom in all forms, and hold them to account to stay in the region and make this an exciting place in Southern California.”

“I think of myself as an entrepreneur and a problem-solver,” Sanberg said. “You can contribute financial resources and you can contribute time. The optimal way to generate the highest impact is to combine both”

Daniel Peeden, an Abraham Rice Scholar who is senior director of development and communications for Sigma Beta Xi Inc., a mentoring program for at-risk youth headquartered in Moreno Valley, said Sanberg’s willingness to engage with students “empowers me to believe that I can make a difference. … The Inland Empire is faced with many problems that need to be solved, and an M.P.P. will equip me with the tools to solve those problems.”

Scholarship recipient Jesse Melgar, who is the communications director for State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), said that Sanberg’s investment of time in the M.P.P. students “is not only ensuring that we succeed, but also that we challenge ourselves to think outside of the box. His recent efforts to address poverty by supporting outreach for the California Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income Californians serves as an example for all of us to follow. Through his actions we are shown that public policy can be impacted in innovative ways. All it takes is vision, persistence and innovative thinking.”

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