Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife are giving Harvard a $12.1 million grant to encourage low-income undergraduate students to pursue public service opportunities.

The grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will provide financial support for up to 2,300 students over the next 15 years, Harvard announced Monday.

As part of the grant, Harvard’s current Stride scholarship program for public service will be renamed the Priscilla Chan Stride Service Program, after Zuckerberg’s wife, a 2007 Harvard graduate.

Chan participated in the Stride program as a Harvard undergraduate, working at an after-school program in Dorchester’s Franklin Hill community.

“As a student on financial aid, it was Harvard’s Stride program that made it financially feasible for me to choose service over traditional work study,” Chan said in a statement. “It’s my hope this gift will give many more students the ability to choose service.”


Harvard provides cost-of-living stipends for low-income students who want to pursue public service jobs, which tend to be low-paying, during the summer. But students on financial aid might have to earn money during their breaks to support themselves or their families, making it more difficult for them to opt for a public service job.

The Priscilla Chan Summer Service Award will cover the entire summer earnings requirement for financial aid recipients, Harvard officials say. The grant will also expand year-round scholarships and mentorships for low-income students interested in public service and three post-graduate fellowships.

The Chan Zuckerberg gift will create “pathways to pursue a lifetime of public service for our students regardless of their backgrounds or personal resources,” said Drew Faust, Harvard’s president.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.