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Advice from ‘The Center’: Look for the Opening

February 20, 2020 | By Cynthia Dillon

Robert RamirezRobert Ramirez, pictured outside of the new space on campus for The Center. The third-year undergraduate studying clinical pharmacology discussed his experiences as a first-generation student and the impact of mentorship during the grand opening program. Photo by Michelle Fredricks

The University of California San Diego’s Division of Physical Sciences officially launched its Student Success Center on Feb. 4, 2020. With a mission to provide learning beyond the classroom and knowledge beyond a degree, The Center serves to prepare students for their professional careers in industry, academia or wherever their science degree takes them. More than 120 faculty members, student group representatives, alumni, donors and industry partners attended the celebratory event at the Mayer Hall location on campus.

Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons led the list of presenters, describing The Center as a “welcoming learning community” for physical sciences students aligned with UC San Diego’s vision as a student-centered, research-focused and service-oriented public university. Invoking university history, Simmons discussed the legacy of Maria Goeppert Mayer, a founding professor who was the second woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics, and for whom the building in which The Center resides was named.

Noting that Mayer pursued academic excellence with a spirit of fun and playful experimentation at a time when it was difficult for female scientists, Simmons said The Center was designed to help a wide range of students enter into that same exploratory spirit toward the sciences.

“The Center’s creation reflects what we heard from students, alumni and industry partners,” she said. “And the Center’s mentoring and inclusive learning strategies will help ensure that a broad array of voices will be represented in the physical sciences for years to come.”  

Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences Steven Boggs presented a series of specific thank you messages to all stakeholders who helped realize The Center—students and faculty, campus leadership, alumni, industry partners, donors and parents.

“The Student Success Center represents a turning point for the division as we look for impactful ways to support our students’ academic and career success, especially outside the classroom,” said Boggs.

The Dean’s Leadership Council President and UC San Diego Alumna Lois Yu (BA, 1993; MS, 1995, mathematics and earth sciences) shared how the council is working on behalf of the division through professional networks to support The Center and the resources it provides to students. She shared an anecdotal account of her musings as an undergraduate student before introducing the student speaker.

Robert Ramirez, a third-year undergraduate studying clinical pharmacology, spoke eloquently about his struggles as a first-generation student and how mentorship made a difference in his student experience. He expressed deep gratitude for the university and the division’s efforts to create The Student Success Center, which will benefit future students.

The presentations closed with a brief account from Kevin deFreitas, project architect, who shared an analogy of advice to a person on a bike: “if you look at a rock, you’ll hit a rock, and if you look at a log, you’ll hit a log.”

“Look for the opening,” said deFreitas. “The division sees where it wants to go. This is an environment of curiosity, enthusiasm and open optimism.”

The Center at the Division of Physical Sciences was born from students’ desire for access to support for their professional development. It offers students training experiences beyond the classroom, professional development beyond a degree, a culture of academic excellence and preparation for a diverse workforce. It is led by Faculty Director, Associate Dean and Professor Thomas Hermann and Director Franklin Garrett.