25 years of helping UCLA students graduate with less debt

Scholarship Resource Center celebrates a quarter-century of connecting Bruins with financial support, mentorship, community
Image of Angela Deaver Campbell with three 2019 graduates who benefited from the Scholarship Resource Center’s support, Wesley Armstrong, Sereena Nand and Austin Lee.

Angela Deaver Campbell with three 2019 graduates who benefited from the Scholarship Resource Center’s support, Wesley Armstrong, Sereena Nand and Austin Lee. Image credit: Alyssa Bierce/UCLA College

By Jonathan Riggs | April 5, 2022

Ask Angela Deaver Campbell how she envisioned the work of the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center, which she launched in 1996, and you’ll get a fairly understated answer: “I saw us as ambassadors of goodwill helping students to graduate with less debt.”

Ask any of the hundreds of students she and her team have helped over the past 25 years, however, and their responses speak to the center’s profound impact.

“I absolutely would not be where I am today without Angela’s and the SRC’s support,” said Aleksandr Katsnelson, a 2009 graduate who went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University. “Angela wore many hats during our interactions: role model, emotional support provider and hero.”

Helping students compete for and win scholarships is the most visible aspect of their mission, but the resource center’s staff also brings a compassionate, high-touch approach to aiding students in other critical ways, including presentation skills, goal-setting and navigating complicated institutional structures.

Constantly evolving with the times, the center proved a beacon for students whose financial situations became unpredictable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was really lost as to how to navigate my financial situation, and the SRC addressed all of my questions and concerns,” said Alice Yanovsky, a 2021 graduate who, with guidance from the center, earned a Mandel and Winick Undergraduate Scholarship. “They helped me pay for my last year of school during the peak of the pandemic, which was a really scary time.”

The center’s legacy keeps growing thanks to Deaver Campbell, who still serves as director, and assistant director Rebecca Blustein, student affairs officer Mac Harris and a group of graduate students who act as student affairs advisors. And while its scope has expanded, the center’s core mission remains unchanged: to provide scholarship information, resources, mentoring and support to all UCLA students.

“Most colleges and universities do not have a center like this — we were way ahead of the curve in 1996 in reimagining the 20th century model of having students sink or swim on their own in the private scholarship process,” Deaver Campbell said. “The SRC is unique in that we provide students with high-touch, holistic service and counseling, regardless of their financial aid eligibility.”

The center’s emphasis on treating students as unique individuals, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach, hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Starting from day one, I knew that I could go to Angela and her team with questions about my scholarship, academics or even job searches,” said Max Harrell, a 2021 graduate whose education was supported by a Thelma L. Culverson Scholarship, which covers California resident tuition and room and board. “The fact that everyone at the SRC knows your name, your goals on campus and even what classes you’re taking, demonstrates how much they want you to succeed.”

When the center opened in 1996, its sole focus was to help students locate and apply for scholarships from off-campus sources. But in 1998, staff began working with development officers at the UCLA College to support students applying for 18 private donor-funded scholarships. Today, the number of scholarships overseen by the resource center has grown to around 100; and of the approximately $5 million in donor-funded scholarships overseen by UCLA’s Division of Undergraduate Education, the center administers about half.

Key to the center’s success are the UCLA graduate students who provide writing and counseling support, and run workshops on how to secure scholarships. Over the years, more than 50 graduate students have served in that role, and many have gone on to use their skills in faculty, administrative and student support positions at other institutions — at East Los Angeles College, the University of Chicago, Brown University and the University of Oregon, to name a few.

One of the center’s current priorities is empowering more students to vie for the world’s most competitive scholarships — including the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Truman and Churchill — while coordinating the campus process for them. Leading that charge is Blustein, the assistant director, who can draw on her experience not only as a former student affairs advisor, but also as a past winner of a Mitchell scholarship.

Herman Luis Chavez, who expects to graduate from UCLA in June, is just one of the students benefiting from that approach. “Dr. Blustein was there for me every step of the way, from editing my application essays to providing mock interviews,” said Chavez, who received support from the center on his way to winning a Marshall scholarship and becoming a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship.

But beyond its ability to help students win scholarships, Blustein said, the center aims to empower all students who walk through its doors, no matter where they go or what they do after UCLA.

“The process of applying for scholarships — win or lose — was crucial to help me visualize my career goals and instrumental to prepare me for where I am today,” said Nathan Mallipeddi, a 2020 graduate who earned both Strauss and Fulbright scholarships and is now a first-year medical student at Harvard.

As the center begins its second quarter-century, Deaver Campbell has identified another important goal: securing independent support to help ensure it can continue to thrive regardless of statewide budget cuts.

“We would love for a donor to make the SRC’s funding permanent, so that no economic downturn could ever affect our ability to help change lives,” Deaver Campbell said. “Every year, more students and families come to us for solutions. Our work is too important to be vulnerable.”

Many students who have been helped by the Scholarship Resource Center have learned to appreciate the importance of philanthropy and some, like Darnel Grant, hope to become future donors themselves.

“The SRC provided me with constant support and encouragement throughout my undergraduate journey. They made me feel I was not going through my educational process alone,” said Grant, a recipient of the Eugene and Maxine Rosenfeld Scholarship who expects to graduate in June. “Now, my life’s goal is to help others to the same degree that the SRC helped me.”

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more of Our Stories at the College, click here.