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UCLA

The Faces of Change

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By Jack Feuer, Photos by David Black

Published Jan 1, 2011 8:00 AM


Progress Made

Re-visit the previous UCLA Magazine feature Crisis Point to see the evolution of African-American freshman enrollment in only five years.

In the fall of 2009, the UBAA launched the Legacy Scholarship Campaign — it was at a Legacy Scholars dinner that Dennis Denman was convinced not to go to school in Atlanta — to raise $500,000 in each of the next three years to help preserve African-American enrollment at UCLA. The goal: Award 30 scholarships of $10,000 each to "superlative" black freshmen and more, to provide each African-American enrollee (except scholarship athletes) with a scholarship of up to $1,500 each.

The idea was Doby's, recalls Ivie. "Winston's suggestion was to make sure that we connect all the different generations, and that would be a central theme of fundraising," he explains. "So we began to reach out to all the graduating classes as far back as we could go. We wanted the kids to know who these people are — [prominent African-American alumni such as] Dr. Don Sanders '73, M.D. '79; Johnnie Cochran '59; Virgil Roberts '68, M.A. '69; Yvonne Brathwaite Burke '53. This was a way to connect the past with the present."

The new awards were matched 3-1 by UCLA's recently established Bruin Advantage Scholarship, which provides up to $10,000 per year for qualifying students for their remaining three years at Westwood. The program leverages the Bruin Scholars Initiative, UCLA's campus-wide effort to increase financial support for graduate and undergraduate students. (The UCLA Alumni Association also offers incoming students other opportunities, such as the Dr. Ralph J. Bunche Alumni Scholarships, which recognize and support freshman Bruins from historically underrepresented backgrounds who add to the diversity of the UCLA community.)

In all, more than 300 donors gave about $510,000 to the UBAA Legacy Scholarship Campaign in 2009-2010. Twenty-five African-American undergraduate students received $10,000 scholarships and qualified for the Bruin Advantage Scholarship match. And 160 African-American students received at least $1,000 scholarships in the first year alone.

Peter Taylor '80, who chaired the African American Alumni and Community Support Task Force (created by then-Acting Chancellor Abrams), is a former president of the UCLA Alumni Association and is now chief financial officer for the University of California. He says that UCLA "has done a very good job of establishing a model for campuses around the country in engaging the community to do outreach, to enlist UCLA students and alumni. [UC San Diego] has put in place a scholarship program for African Americans based almost word for word on the way we did it at UCLA. Davis is looking at it as well. I feel pretty good about the network of support and engagement that has been put in place."

"It's not just that [scholarship recipients] came and were successful," adds Keith Parker, UCLA assistant vice chancellor for Government and Community Relations and a member of the Chancellor's task force. "It's what that message means to other kids."

art

Denman tries on one of a multitude of Bruin-themed hats he owns — the fervent Bruin loves to wear UCLA merchandise.

Challenges Still Ahead

Still, obstacles loom, including the state budget crisis, demographic changes and a besieged K-12 system that is producing smaller numbers of qualified candidates.

"Strategies for further improvements in diversity are being discussed," says UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "It is generally believed that it will be necessary to increase the pipeline of highly qualified students. This will require improvements in inner-city schools, improved mentoring and so on. UCLA programs reach many city high schools, but more needs to be done."

And UCLA will continue to do what is needed to fulfill its mission to be a resource for all Californians. "Every one of those students is absolutely precious," says Montero. "Given the diversity of our student body, there is tremendous potential for us to truly be the best institution for these communities."

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