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History of the Black Academic Excellence Initiative

Executive Summary

In 2016, UC San Diego launched the Black Academic Excellence Initiative. Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Becky Petitt charged the BAEI Advisory Committee to develop recommendations that would improve the presence and experience of Black faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and staff.

The Advisory Committee is comprised of UC San Diego students, staff, and faculty with extensive professional and personal experiences in critical areas of campus life that impact Black populations: programming planning, expansion, and assessment, admissions, recruitment, retention, equity, access, and success, human resources, and many more.

Benefits to the Campus

 Diversity of thought and ideas significantly enriches the academic experience and improves the depth and breadth of the experience for all at UC San Diego. Our Black community—that has been historically underrepresented at UC San Diego—contributes to this rich working, teaching, and learning environment.

Success of the Black Academic Excellence Initiative will be realized by a transformation in the experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff on campus through increased enrollment of Black students, persistence and graduation rates, increased levels of engagement and participation in co-curricular, academic and socio-emotional supports; improved retention for all groups, and an increased presence of Black faculty and staff. These successes will improve the climate for diversity, equity, and inclusion for all. 

Why Now?

Of all ethnic groups completing campus climate assessments, Black students, faculty and staff report that they are least satisfied with their experience at UC San Diego. Low numbers of Black peers lead to generally feeling disconnected from campus.

It is important that we acknowledge, and not ignore, the current racial climate in the United States and the histories that produced it. As one of the world’s best public universities, we can start by changing our own campus, fostering an environment of equity, diversity, and inclusion for our Black community.

Challenges as Identified by the Committee


Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee representation is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty situated at several levels in the university.


  • Makeba Jones, Education Studies
  • Ivan Evans, Eleanor Roosevelt College
  • Diane Forbes Berthoud, EDI


  • King Britt, Music 
  • Adam Burgasser, Physics
  • Thandeka Chapman, Education Studies
  • Douglass Forbes, Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Mica Pollock, Education Studies


  • David Artis, Academic Enrichment
  • Keiara Auzenne, SIO/Director's Office
  • April Bjornsen, Graduate Division
  • Porsia Curry, Black Resource Center
  • Pamela Fruge, Colleges Business Office
  • Vonda Garcia or Designee, Financial Aid
  • Helen Griffith, Preuss School
  • Cheryl Harrelson, Development
  • Mya Hines, African American Studies Minor
  • Azizi James, Admissions
  • Diane LeGree, Sixth College
  • Charles Lu, OASIS
  • Susan Rinaldi, Teaching and Learning Commons
  • LaWana Richmond, Transportation Services
  • LeShane Saddler, Admissions


  • James Crawford, Black Graduate Student Association Representative (2019-2020)
  • Malik Gilbert, BRC Black Student at Large (2019-2020)


  • Fnann Keflezghi, UCSD Black Alumni Council (2018-present)

An Ongoing Journey

The Advisory Committee took on early efforts including surveying student, staff, and faculty data to gauge the community’s opinion on the Black experience at UC San Diego. Based on their findings, the goal of the committee was to then develop strategic recommendations to strengthen support for our Black campus community. While the committee was in progress studying the existing data, the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd during the spring and summer of 2020 sparked a series of protests across the United States, including on our campus.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, the U.S. entered a historic period of civil unrest to fight police brutality, racism, and violence against the Black community. In response to these events, the University and individual campus units issued statements condemning the ongoing violence and affirming our support for our Black campus community members. During this time, the administration received demands from a variety of campus groups expressing concerns about the well-being and treatment of the Black community at UC San Diego. This unprecedented moment allowed the administration and the Black Academic Excellence Initiative Advisory Committee to use campus input to reflect more deeply and intentionally on the work they had already begun to support Black students, faculty, and staff.

Following this time of intense stress, grief, and trauma within the Black community, we have used the BAEI as a springboard to initiate community conversations focused on fostering a more supportive and equitable environment to improve the Black experience at UC San Diego. Alongside these efforts, EDI has collaborated with campus partners to provide trauma-informed spaces for healing and to recognize what UC San Diego can do to ensure our Black campus community feels safe, seen, and supported.

The BAEI is targeted towards transforming the experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff through increased enrollment of Black students; persistence and graduation rates; increased levels of engagement and participation in co-curricular, academic and socio-emotional support; improved retention for all groups; and an increased presence of Black faculty and staff. This work coincides with the Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, a roadmap to fulfill UC San Diego’s vision to be a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented, public university. The Plan demonstrates a collective commitment to achieve academic and institutional excellence through campus-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

To address the needs of our Black community, we have acted on specific measures to ensure a culture of care and belonging on campus consistent with the core tenets of our Strategic Plan:

  • Access and Success: Attract, retain, and support a diverse faculty, staff, and student body with the goal of reflecting California demographics and achieving institutional excellence at UC San Diego.
  • Climate: Create and foster a positive and welcoming climate where we value, include, and support all at UC San Diego.
  • Accountability: Ensure institutional accountability through processes and structures that strengthen UC San Diego's clear and continuous commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.


We invite you to visit our updated Black Academic Excellence Initiative page to learn more about our continued progress.