UCLA alumna Christine Simmons, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team, welcomed new African-American students to UCLA at the 10th annual Black Convocation and urged them to tap into opportunities afforded by their enrollment and serve interests beyond their own.

“Black Bruins matter because we are relentless optimists amidst adversity. … Black Bruins matter because now you have access and world-class social capital,” Simmons said. “You got accepted. Welcome. You have a responsibility now. It’s not just about you.”  

Simmons, who earned a B.S. degree in 1998, keynoted the convocation organized by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and attended Tuesday by more than 100 students, alumni, faculty and staff in Haines Hall. The event is among several convocations held by various groups to help acquaint students with service opportunities, academic support, extracurricular activities and other resources.

African-American enrollment at UCLA has risen to its highest level in almost 20 years with 282 first-year students and 144 transfer students entering this fall.

Simmons, who is president-elect of the UCLA Alumni Association board, praised the “perseverance, diversity and empowerment” that she benefited from during her years at UCLA. She commended the “diversity of thought, diversity of discipline and diversity of background” she found on campus and urged students to immerse themselves in the campus community, seek to understand those of different “religions, political backgrounds and sexual orientations,” and build authentic relationships that can sustain their personal and professional lives.

The Black Convocation was cosponsored by the Department of African American Studies, Student Affairs, the Office of Residential Life, Afrikan Student Union, Academic Advancement Program, UCLA Black Alumni Association, the Institute for American Cultures, UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council and the Community Programs Office.