Diversity at UC San Diego

STARS and Beyond—How the Rady School Is Building Better Connections to HSIs and HBCUs

Candy Witter“I’ve wanted to be a CEO since I was young,” says Candy Witter. Born in Jamaica and raised in Georgia and Maryland, Witter earned her B.A. in Business Administration from Bowie State University earlier this year. She had been contemplating her career path when she received an email from a professor about UC San Diego’s STARS (Summer Training Academy for Research Success) program. The eight-week program offers college students and recent graduates hands-on research experience with UC San Diego professors, GRE and graduate school prep workshops, network building and more. The Rady School participates in STARS as part of its commitment to foster connections with students of HSIs and HBCUs.

Witter followed up about STARS and connected with Rady School Associate Professor Sally Sadoff. “Talking with her is what really caught my interest,” Witter says. “She was amazing—sharing her insight on what it was like getting her PhD. She asked me what areas I would be interested in researching.” Based on these conversations, Witter was offered the opportunity to work closely on a research project with Assistant Professor Rachel Gershon. This research explored the effectiveness of social media advertising for mental health crisis text lines—what types of messaging could motivate someone to respond and ultimately, get them the help they need?

Throughout the course of the program, Witter dedicated about ten hours a week to STARS activities including research, community building, GRE prep, and meetings with Rady School staff and faculty—including Dean Lisa Ordóñez and Assistant Dean of Strategy and Operations Wendy Hunter-Barker. “Everyone that I’ve met through this program has been so kind and very genuine,” says Witter. “I feel like they are looking out for my best interest regardless of what I decide to do afterwards. I’m also learning a lot of research skills that I didn’t have before.” In August, the program culminated with presentations during which all STARS participants shared the findings of their research projects.

“This program has opened me up to a different perspective,” says Witter. “It’s given me the opportunity to really think about my options. I didn’t know you could get a PhD in marketing and management or any of these areas. Coming from an HBCU, I think it’s so important to know that these programs exist. The skills you learn and the connections you build here can make a huge difference in your life.”

Rady School’s commitment to STARS builds on multiple efforts to create strong connections with students from HSIs and HBCUs. “The Rady School has recently completed a strategic plan and one of the five strategic intents outlined in the plan focuses on increasing equity, diversity and inclusion at the school,” says Wendy Hunter Barker. “The initiatives which come out of this strategic intent will be myriad, and one focal area will be widening the pipeline of schools that send students to Rady for graduate degrees.”

Another way the school is fostering connections is through the Summer Institute for Emerging Leaders (SIEML). This collaboration between the six UC business schools offers workshops, lectures, and a case competition experience to undergraduate sophomores and juniors from HSIs and HBCUs. The summertime immersive opportunity also provides its alumni with eligibility to receive up to two years of fellowships at the Rady School or the other UC graduate business schools.

Additionally, the Rady School has continued its outreach to underrepresented students as a member institution of The PhD project. The mission of this 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization is to increase workplace diversity by increasing the diversity of business school faculty. Staff, faculty, and Dean Ordóñez have presented at The PhD Project annual conference to prospective doctoral students, and the school leverages member resources to connect with recent graduates on the academic job market.  In fact, the school is pleased to have recently welcomed students from that program into its PhD cohort, one in 2020 and another in 2021.

Hunter Barker adds, “We hope that by leveraging campus programs like STARS, we can bring undergraduates from schools not typically represented at Rady, including HBCUs and HSIs, so they can learn first-hand what we have to offer and hopefully see themselves here in the very near future.”