Students + Campus

The UCLA Summer Humanities Institute: A legacy to be proud of

For 14 years the program has helped students from historically underrepresented groups prepare for graduate school

Summer Humanities Institute students

More than 80 percent of students who have participated in the UCLA Summer Humanities Institute have gone on to graduate school. This is the program's last year.

Fourteen years ago Kelvin White was an undergrad from Texas Southern University and part of the inaugural class of UCLA’s Summer Humanities Institute (SHI), a program that prepares high-achieving undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds for the rigors of graduate school.

Now White is a tenure-track professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“If it wasn’t for SHI, I probably would not be where I am right now,” White said. “[At SHI], I was being exposed to academia and then just building the confidence that I needed to succeed.”

Since it was established in 2000, the Summer Humanities Institute, which is managed by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, has offered more than 150 students, primarily from historically black colleges and universities, the opportunity to learn more about pursuing an advanced degree by participating in classes and lectures modeled after those at graduate schools. Throughout the two-month summer program, students in the program conduct original research, prepare their graduate school applications and network with established professors in the fields of the students’ interest.

Though highly successful — more than 80 percent of the participants have attended graduate schools like Yale, Harvard and UCLA — the Summer Humanities Institute is coming to end this summer. Ana-Christina Ramon, assistant director of the Bunche Center and the program’s coordinator, is optimistic that with the program’s track record, they’ll be able to find new funding and restart it.

“We are hoping that it won’t be the last year forever,” Ramon said. “We are looking into other avenues to keep this program going.”

Students pay no fees to participate, and the institute provides them with housing for the two months they spend on campus. This makes SHI is a bit more difficult to fund, Ramon said, but it’s also these qualities that make it competitive among other summer programs.

“We try to model our program this way so the students come here and they don’t have anything to worry about, and they can focus on their research,” Ramon said.

Jonathan Collins speaks during the 2010 UCLA Summer Humanities Institute.

Graduates of the Summer Humanities Institute agree that ending this program is a loss for ambitious college students interested in academia. Jonathan Collins, who participated in SHI in 2010 and is currently completing his Ph.D. in political science at UCLA, said the program helps students like him who may otherwise have “fallen by the wayside.”

“It’s something that can truly enhance someone’s future,” Collins said. “These kinds of programs are important because they establish that link, that connection, that bridge, to help you cross from a very talented student to a young scholar who’s able to produce a scholarship on the highest level in academia.”

Current Summer Humanities Institute participant Jared Loggins is just that type of student. Loggins had poor SAT scores and was accepted to Morehouse College “just barely,” and even when he didn’t understand a classroom lecture, he kept reading and “pushing” until he did.

“I never stopped and said, ‘Oh, well. I’m inadequate,’” said Loggins, now a 21-year-old senior. “I knew that was a limitation, and I knew I had to overcome that. So how do you overcome that? You just have to do what you have to do. You have to make sure that you stay focused on the goal — whatever the goal may be for you. You just have to keep going. You have to.”

Loggins, who is now on the dean’s List at Morehouse and a member of Pi Sigma Alpha — the National Political Science Honor Society — will be applying to graduate school and hopes to become a professor one day. He said that he feels lucky to have been able to be a part of the institute.

“Already, SHI has been critical to my development. Absolutely critical,” Loggins said. “We need these types of diversity programs.”

Media Contact