Desmarie Jackson (266938)

Desmarie Jackson was happily surprised when she was accepted into UC Berkeley, but that was short-lived when she realized she probably couldn’t afford it. However, that all changed with the African-American Initiative Scholarship. Jackson and 22 other African American students are the first recipients of the scholarships, reports New.Berkeley.edu. The scholarships were made possible by an anonymous $1 million donation. Through funds, administered by the San Francisco Foundation, each student will receive $8,000 annually. “It built the bridge that made going to Berkeley possible,” Jackson said. Once fully funded at $20 million, the endowed scholarship fund will provide admitted African American undergraduate students an annual financial incentive. “These scholarships will allow the UC Berkeley community to continue to work towards and achieve our goals around equity, inclusion and diversity by increasing opportunities for more students from the Black community to choose Berkeley,” said Takiyah Jackson, director of the African American Student Development Office and Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center. Desmarie Jackson planned to major in comparative literature, but after going through Golden Bear Advising and doing some research, she changed her mind. “I started looking into global studies, and I realized that as much as I loved English, my true passion and what I really do want to do is help people around the world. I not only want to go back to the community that raised me and help there but I want to help around the world.” According to a survey of African American students admitted to the University of California for fall 2015, many of these high-achieving students decided to go to Ivy League or private colleges because they were offered better financial support. “Though the best and brightest are eligible to attend Berkeley, many cannot come unless they receive financial support. We need to demonstrate our support for young Black leaders at Berkeley,” said Cloey Hewlett, executive director of the Cal Alumni Association, which manages the scholarship process. These awards are part of UC Berkeley’s African American Initiative (AAI), launched in 2015. “These scholarships are about recognizing excellence, advancing diversity and removing financial barriers of access to the number one research institution. Students make a difference, so if we can attract students with these scholarships, everyone on campus will benefit,” said Oscar Dubón, vice chancellor for the Division of Equity and Inclusion. The African American Initiative is also focused on improving recruitment, yield, retention and graduation rates of African American students through intentional and strategic efforts. The initiative is aimed at greatly increasing the African American student population, currently less than 3 percent of the student body, over the next 10 years; raising the number of African American faculty and staff; and building a more welcoming and inclusive climate. Diversifying the leadership at Berkeley is another critical part of the initiative. “We need to see more African American leaders on campus because our leadership — staff leadership and faculty leadership — needs to reflect all our communities,” said Dubón. “I feel this year is going to be an opportunity to really change the tide and the narrative around the black experience here, but we need to be steadfast and continue to push forward.”