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Special Report

Aaron Jones

Listening and bringing change


Aaron Jones grew up in the neighborhoods of Inglewood, Hawthorne, and South Central L.A. His father drove a forklift while his mother worked at the county social services office. Both parents wanted Jones to get a degree, but neither had been to college themselves and didn’t know how to get him there—or what he could expect when he did.


So, when Jones was hired as an African Black Caribbean (ABC) retention specialist at UC

Santa Cruz in 2016 and asked to start a program to help ABC students transition to college life, he relied on his own experiences.


Jones, now interim director of the Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) on campus, organized Black Academy, a six-day orientation program for African Black Caribbean students to help them find their paths through college. Mentors were paired up with new students and sessions were offered to cover basic questions like how to sign up for classes and buy books. Lists of campus resources were handed out. There was socializing and panels to discuss Black identity and how to deal with things like microaggressions that might occur. Friendships formed as students spent the orientation period housed together in the Rosa Parks African American Theme House on campus. This fall will be Black Academy’s sixth year.


“We front-load information, so that the unfamiliar world students walk into will become a bit more familiar,” said Jones, who, as a first-generation student at UC Riverside, arrived at his dorm room not even knowing he needed to bring his own sheets.


The Academy also includes periodic gatherings during the year so new and older members can connect.  


The results have been impressive.


According to Jones, while UC Santa Cruz’s retention rate for all students after the first year ranges from 70–80 percent, the same retention rate for students who went through Black Academy is 90–95 percent.


For Jones, while programs like Black Academy and EOP aren’t the only safe place on campus for ABC students, “it’s that students find someone in these places that will help them feel safe and gives them the energy (and help) to go out and interact with things that might not be positive,” Jones said.


It’s also about listening and bringing change to the campus.


Jones, for instance, has created a research fellowship with the Chancellor’s Office, the African American Resource and Cultural Center, and the Black Student Union that engages undergraduate ABC students to investigate campus experiences relating to housing, policing, and being a Black Muslim on campus, among other topics. It’s a way, Jones said, for the campus to better understand needs.


What drives Jones, who completed his doctorate in higher education leadership from Azusa Pacific University in 2019, is a desire to help students not face the same struggles he did as a first-generation Black student and to make sure students are given every chance to succeed, he said.

He also is pushed by the need for more change.


“I really do value the work we do and the difference we make, but there is always more to be done and I think that’s another motivator for me,” he said. “It takes people like me, but it also takes campus leadership to really integrate these structures and turn things around…. We have to re-examine the whole way we do this work.”

Special Announcements

Students walking to beach

$2.6 million grant funds program to increase diversity of conservation leaders

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded renewed funding for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UC Santa Cruz with a grant of $2.63 million over the next four years. The program was established with an initial four-year grant in 2015, with the goal of diversifying the conservation field.

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Seeking Applications for Alumni Councilors

Become a UCSC Alumni Association leader. Support the educational calling of UCSC, and guide the university into the future. Help connect 140,000 alumni to each other and to campus, by collaborating with staff, faculty, and administrators to support student success.

Deadline: March 30, 5 p.m. (PST)

Profiles in Excellence

Alyssa Tamboura

UCSC Student Draws on Personal History to Support Children of Incarcerated Parents

The coronavirus pandemic has kept many of us separated from our loved ones. That is particularly true for children with a parent who is incarcerated. Alyssa Tamboura is doing what she can to make sure those families stay connected.

Forrest Stuart

Q&A with Forrest Stuart

Since earning his bachelor’s in politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz back in 2004, Forrest Stuart has gone on to build a highly influential academic career, pursuing burning questions about the societal underpinnings of poverty and criminalization across disciplines.

Nia Imara

Artist, Activist, and Astrophysicist Nia Imara Keeps Her Eyes on the Sky

Nia Imara's, a new assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, just launched her newest project, Onaketa, an organization she founded that provides free science and math tutoring to underserved students of color, rooted in trying to bring the magic of the universe closer to a wider audience

Career and Network Support

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Communities of Color Career Series: Identity in the Workplace

With the collaboration of the African American Resource & Cultural Center and Alumni Engagement, this webinar spotlights how to navigate your identity in the workplace from applying to getting the job. Alumni of color share stories, give feedback and provide tips and tricks on how they navigated their identity during the first years of entering the workplace!

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Leading through challenging times

March 24, 12 p.m. (PST)

Uncertain, stressful, draining, and disruptive are terms frequently used to describe the past several months. Join the UC Alumni Career Network for a transparent discussion on the traumatic toll the pandemic has taken on leaders and strategies you can implement to prioritize your needs and those of your team.

Special Events

UCSC Alumni Week

Seeking Banana Slugs to share their passions and expertise with fellow Slugs during UCSC’s first virtual Alumni Week, April 19–25, 2021. Wherever you are, whatever your area of passion or knowledge, consider leading a Banana Slug Share session. Cooking workshop? Yes, chef! Yoga session? Namaste! Brewing breakdown? Two cheers to that! Whatever your expertise, we want to hear from you.

Please apply by March 12!

Work at UC Santa Cruz!

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UC Santa Cruz wants to see an increase in Black representation at all levels of the university. Please consider applying, and pass along these job announcements to other Black folks in your networks. You'll find a comprehensive list of all open positions here.


College Academic Adviser | Campus Advising Coordination
Application review begins on 3/01/21


Substitute Assistant/Associate Teacher | Early Education Services
Application review begins on 3/01/21


Public Information and Media Relations Officer | Communications & Marketing
Application review begins on 3/18/21

Land Acknowledgment

UC Santa Cruz is located on the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.
This newsletter was produced by the Alumni Engagement office at UC Santa Cruz. If you have suggestions for content you'd like to see featured, please contact Rhonda Kinard at



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Santa Cruz, CA 95064


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