Earlier this month, University of California San Diego was ranked No. 19 among the best universities in the world. Known as one of the best public universities in the country, it’s no surprise that the university is highly selective due to the number of applications it receives for enrollment each year.

Unfortunately, like many selective institutions, low enrollment of historically under-represented students, like African Americans and Latinos/as, persists despite efforts to make higher education more accessible to diverse populations. It’s also why the UCSD Black Alumni Scholarship Fund exists today, thanks to the efforts of those who lead the fund – all of whom attended or worked at the university. Or both, like Ed Spriggs, the fund’s current chair and advisor.

“In my junior year, I started UCSD’s first student-led outreach program to local high schools with large Black and Brown populations,” Ed said. “After getting permission from the school district and principals, I recruited other students to go with me into home rooms to encourage students to work hard on their academics, think about college and take college prep courses.”

Years later, when Ed returned to UCSD to serve as Associate Vice Chancellor in Student Affairs, he worked closely with Manuelita Brown, the fund’s recently retired chair, to address the persistently low number and percentage of enrolled African American students.

Supporting Students

Manuelita initially became involved in BASF as a contributor to the fund, which was started in 1983 by fellow UCSD alumnus Dr. Lennon Goins, DDS. According to Manuelita, the fund was started to help increase the enrollment of African American students because up to that point, African American students at UCSD averaged only about 2% of the total undergrad population.

“I was employed at UCSD as a director of an academic support program for underrepresented students in STEM majors that required calculus,” she said. “That work inspired me to want to do more for these students, especially the African American students who were the smallest of the underrepresented groups on campus, except for Native Americans.

“When Dr. Goins asked me to join his advisory board and help select students to receive the scholarships, I was happy to accept.”

Growing Scholarships

After serving as treasurer, Manuelita became the chair and worked to increase the scholarship amount as well as the number of scholarships offered, a role she took pleasure in serving for over 20 years.

And grown it has.

“We have increased the number of our scholarships from several in 1983 to 60 for this incoming fall 2023 class,” Manuelita said. “Last year, we also expanded the program to include transfer students. And after the new group arrives in September, the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund scholar community at UCSD will be nearly 200. Quite a change, I am happy to say, during my years with this scholarship program.”

Manuelita and Ed share a deeply felt understanding that more is needed than just increasing the percentage of African American students at UCSD; it’s also about the quality of the Black student experience.

In addition to financial assistance, the program also helps its scholars develop a high-quality university experience by intentionally connecting students with faculty, alumni mentors, academic advisors and experiential learning opportunities such as research, internships, community service and study abroad, among other “real world” experiences that complement their majors and strengthen their resumes.

“We have worked to improve both the UCSD experience of our scholars, as well as their presence on campus,” Manuelita said.

Cultivating Civic-Minded Citizens

UCSD Black Alumni Scholarship

BASF Scholars following an Experiential Learning Workshop at UCSD’s Career Center

All of this is to prepare Black Alumni Scholarship Fund scholars to be successful as students and after their time at the university.

Manuelita and Ed, as well as the entire UCSD Black Alumni Scholarship Fund board, have always been concerned about the persistent inequities in society. So, they also want the program’s student-scholars to be willing and able to contribute to the betterment of their communities after they graduate.

“Our ability to make a difference in this regard depends, of course, partly on what our scholars bring to UCSD and partly on what they get out of their time at UCSD,” Ed said. “We therefore select our scholarship recipients largely on their community service involvement prior to their time on campus.”

Ed and Manuelita, along with other UCSD Black Alumni Scholarship Fund board members, hope that community service involvement continues after graduation.

“Our ultimate goal is to help UCSD produce more graduates who are talented, civic-minded African Americans ready to enrich the San Diego region through careers in research, technology, education, business, the arts and public service,” Ed said.

According to Manuelita, many of the program’s mentors find that their mentees want to give back once they graduate, becoming mentors and helping new students navigate the UCSD environment. Many also become donors to growing degrees as their ability to give increases.

Increasing Capacity

Manuelita hopes the program can substantially increase its endowment in the coming years.

“With continued successful fundraising and growth of our endowment at the San Diego Foundation, we hope to expand opportunities for outstanding African American students to attend UCSD and benefit from our world-class university,” she said, adding that they recently created the BASF website with information and donation links at basf-sandiego.com.

The program’s goal is to add 100 new scholars annually and bring the total number of BASF Scholars on campus to 400 by 2025. To reach that goal, Manuelita and Ed appreciate that the San Diego Foundation has been and will continue to be a key partner.

“As we have grown, SDF staff have been extremely helpful in sitting down with us to find more efficient and student-friendly ways of running our growing scholarship program,” Manuelita said,

In fact, program leaders recently met with the SDF Community Scholarship Program team to streamline the scholarship renewal process.

“Our Black Alumni Scholarship Fund Executive Committee worked with the SDF Community Scholarship Program staff as a team for over two hours and came up with some major improvements,” Ed said. “We’ve also had great working sessions recently with the Donor Services and Communications teams. SDF staff are dedicated, wonderful people.”

About the SDF Community Scholarship Program

The SDF Community Scholarship Program is made possible through the generous donor support of 146 unique charitable funds at San Diego Foundation and is the largest in the region outside of the university system. Since 1997, the program has awarded more than $50 million to more than 13,000 college students from San Diego.

If you are interested in opening a scholarship fund to support students fueling our San Diego economy, please contact Danielle Valenciano, Director of the SDF Community Scholarship Program, at DanielleV@SDFoundation.org.

Learn more about the Community Scholarship Program and how to start a Scholarship Fund.