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An Interview with the Student Success Center’s Franklin Garrett

Director of Education Initiatives at the Student Success Center Franklin Garrett is an advocate for diversity in STEM who works to uplift underrepresented students at UC San Diego. Garrett originally came to UC San Diego to work in the Student Financial Solutions Office, but later moved to Physical Sciences, where he directs and implements programs that help students succeed in their academic careers. Franklin received his Master's in Education with an emphasis in multicultural counseling from San Diego State University. He recently earned his Doctorate of Education through the Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at UC San Diego/CSU San Marcos. In 2021, Garrett received the Inclusive Excellence Award for Academic Affairs, which recognizes students, staff, and faculty who make outstanding contributions to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and uphold our Principles of Community. 

As a champion for student excellence, Garrett’s efforts connect to the core values of the Black Academic Excellence Initiative. In particular, his work brings to mind Ubora, meaning, “To value Black academic, professional, scholarly, cultural, and institutional excellence.” Read on to learn more about his efforts to make UC San Diego a place where students from all backgrounds can thrive: 

What is your role at UC San Diego? franklingarrett.PNG

My primary role is to provide resources to students, specifically students who are underserved on college campuses. Since we care about the climate and community, we do a lot of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives to make sure our students feel comfortable inside and outside of the classroom. The way we look at it is if you're a student and you’re trying to find your way on campus, you're at a disadvantage with some of these other students who may just hit the ground running. So how do we remove barriers and close that gap? We make sure students are equipped for when they graduate. We do a lot of mentorship programs where we connect students with other students and upperclassmen. We do programs where we bring industry professionals to campus to educate students on what they could do once they receive their degree. We also have another mentorship program that connects current students with alumni who work in specific industries that they're interested in.

What are some ways that your work aims to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at UC San Diego?

We did a series called “Diversity in STEM,” where we engaged faculty and students on the concept of making inclusive classroom settings. Multiple professors from different departments came and talked about their techniques to make sure that they engage with underrepresented students. Another thing we do is try to build community among students. We create a safe haven learning community where they meet every once in a while. What I find most rewarding is that when I'm working with students, I see the future professors. They’re going to be the ones going out, becoming professors, and working in academia like us. When you see them understand EDI from where they sit, it makes you feel encouraged about the future. Once these new students come in, we’re going to have a different climate.

"When I'm working with students, I see the future professors."

What are some of your hopes or goals for the future of UC San Diego?

I think the future is really taking a look at the data. We do so many great things, but we don't talk about them enough. The diversity dashboard is one example of having data out there, but we haven't really figured out how to tell the story. We’re gathering these metrics, and there are all of these collective impact committees and separate committees across campus. How are those impacting the experiences of students on campus? How can we really be able to tell that story? I have a 14-year-old son who's going to be thinking about college soon. When he asks me about UC San Diego and the culture there, I want to be able to tell him, “We do X, Y, and Z, which led to X, Y, and Z for the student experience.” That's what I want to see next–connecting everything that's happening across campus and telling that story. Not just for us, the people who care about the work, but for the potential students who are considering our university. I think that will be the evolution of the work we're doing.

What issue feels most urgent to you right now?

I just finished my doctorate degree a couple of months ago, and I’ve been doing research for the last three years. The one thing that’s important to me is changing how these students are talked about in the literature. I just did my dissertation topic on persistence factors for first generation African American doctoral students. When you think of these student populations, a lot of people think of struggle–but there's a lot that excel. Let's start talking about the students of color who are excelling on our campus. I think that's the aspect that at this stage of my career is the most important for me to start thinking about–being asset-based, and really pointing out the positive aspects. We don't want people to think of EDI as a negative thing. There's positivity in EDI work.


To learn more about UC San Diego’s Student Success Center in the School of Physical Sciences, visit their website. The Center offers services that support career development for both undergraduate and graduate students in the Departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Mathematics and Physics. The Center also supports diversity organizations including the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM), and more.