Expanding the talent pool for a more inclusive economy


Figueroa added, “It’s a really hands-on, collaborative experience to create the program. We leverage the expertise of UC San Diego’s world-renowned economists and seek student input every step of the way.

Njuguna counselor Andrea Lai said she appreciates the program she and other counselors have created with faculty and staff for their collaboration, especially to meet the needs of the students.

“We’re constantly thinking about how to interest students and what resources they need to adapt to campus,” said La, a student at Revelle College. “I really like the flexibility of professors to give students what they need.”

The first cohort of students and mentors began in 2022-23 and were central to shaping the program, Sadoff said.

“Working together, they created social activities that allowed the students to connect and have fun,” Sadoff said. The students led the support services we created. For example, they’ve told us they want to focus on summer opportunities, and we put together resources on available programs to help them with their applications and connect them with internships and summer institutes.

Providing students with hands-on experience, such as internships and undergraduate research opportunities, is critical to solidifying their understanding of business economics and further demonstrates the university’s investment in their success, Vespa said.

“Having students like Grace Njuguna and Grace Baldwin participate in research in the EconLab has been exciting,” said Vespa. “They are detail-oriented, energetic, curious and open-minded. Through their work, I better understand my own information. I hope the experience is as valuable to them as it is to the rest of the research team.

Baldwin is another first-year participant in the Business and Economics Mentoring Program and works with Vespa as an undergraduate research assistant.

“What’s special is the opportunity to meet professors and the opportunity to meet Professor Vespa,” said Baldwin, a student at Eleanor Roosevelt College. “Also, it’s great to meet other people in my situation who are freshmen and exploring things and having this little community that we have.”

Rady School of Management Dean Lisa Ordonez knows firsthand how important it is for students to feel a sense of belonging on their college campus.

“Making sure all students feel included in higher education is very important to me as a first-generation high school and college graduate,” Ordonez said. “At Rady, we prioritize the advancement of equity, diversity, and inclusion through our partnership with the Economics Department through the Business and Economics Mentoring Program and other initiatives. We know that inclusion in business is important. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also benefits companies—and society—as a larger and more diverse talent pool, innovation And it brings many benefits such as profitability.

Building a pipeline for students of all backgrounds to pursue business degrees

The data shows that in addition to limited financial resources, the main barriers to students pursuing quantitatively rigorous degrees such as business economics are a lack of on-campus academic preparation, support, and property.

“By breaking down barriers to STEM education, we can provide diverse students with the knowledge, skills and experiences that can lead to upward mobility and improved quality of life for high-paying jobs,” said Julie Cullen. Chairman of the Department of Economics. “Also, working to find solutions to many of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change and poverty, requires the kind of rigorous analytical training that economics can provide.” Engaging diverse voices in the field enhances our ability to understand and respond to the needs of diverse communities, resulting in more inclusive and effective solutions.

The program was established with the help of a gift from Karen and Jeff Silberman to the Rady School of Management. Silberman’s grant will cover one-third of the program’s costs in its first four years.

“We thank the Silbermans for their support of our program and their efforts to create an effective pipeline of students from diverse backgrounds to access STEM education,” Ordonez said.

The plan is to partner with UC San Diego Extension to grow the program by developing ways to attract and enroll diverse high school graduates in the region.

In addition, graduates of the program will be eligible for fellowships at the Rady School.

The opportunity piqued Njuguna’s interest in Rady’s Master’s in Professional Accounting program, to which she can apply as a third-year student.

“The exposure to graduate school has been beneficial for us,” Njuguna said. “I am very grateful to be a part of this program and thank everyone who helped make this program possible.”

For more information about Business and Economics Mentoring Program, go to the program’s website, or you can email Greg Figueroa.


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