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Office of Leadership, Service and Career

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion | Souza Leadership Center

We carry out our mission with equity & inclusion in mind.  

The Souza Leadership Center creates programs that encourage students to celebrate and bring every part of their intersecting identities to the table (from gender identity, ethnic identity, personality traits, and all other identities they hold). Diversity in thought is important in leadership. We encourage our students, staff, invited speakers, and all of our partners to bring their unique voices, backgrounds, and experiences to their leadership journey. We encourage all those invited into our community to respect, value and educate themselves on identities and experiences that are different than their own.  

Addressing Inequities in Leadership 

We understand that many inequities exist in the current state of leadership and leader development in the U.S. and throughout the World.  We aim to develop leaders who are resilient in overcoming these challenges and who prioritize understanding these issues (which include racial and gender inequities). We challenge the leaders with whom we work to address such disparities in all spaces in which they engage in leadership. 

Staff Recruitment and Training 

We are a small staff at the Souza Leadership Center, but we strive to create a team that is diverse in identities, experiences, and perspectives. We encourage civil disagreement as we believe this will lead to better results and more inclusive programs for student leaders. It is an expectation that anyone who joins the Souza Leadership Center team respects and values diversity and is willing to learn and implement strategies for equity and inclusion.  This expectation will be clearly outlined in any and all job descriptions for which The Souza Leadership Center recruits. The Souza Leadership staff also includes a specific goal related to equity and diversity in its annual assessment report in order to ensure accountability. 


What does this look like in our programming? 

The Yosemite Leadership Program – We address racial inequities as it relates to environmental health and environmental justice. This program includes speakers, workshops, and trips related to this important topic.   

RFK Young Leaders – The UC Merced Chapter of the RFK Young Leaders will launch in Fall 2021. The student leaders of the UC Merced Chapter have identified the following as their human rights issue that they aim to address: Educational inequalities within low-income communities of color. 

Bobcat Leadership Program – We begin this 4-week seminar by dedicating the entire first session to the important discussion of exploring our multiple identities, and understanding we are human first, and then we are leaders. We discuss the concept of ‘intersectionality' first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. During Session 1, we also discuss racial and gender disparities in leadership, as well as the overall need to diversify who gets to take on leadership roles and who gets to define the standards of leadership. We encourage students to think about how they might be affected by inequities in leadership, and how they as leaders can advocate for themselves and those with identities different from their own. We also highlight research that shows that diversity in leadership and in teams leads to higher performance and better results. The Bobcat Leadership Seminar is also facilitated by the Services for Undocumented Students at UC Merced, who offer UndocuBobcat Leadership Seminar, once each semester.  

Lead Pre-Health – The goal of this program is not only to prepare UC Merced students for careers as leaders in the health field, but a core priority is also to diversity those who enter the health field. We, therefore, aim for a diverse cohort of students each year. We dedicate several sessions of this year-long program to discussing inequities in the health field and the importance of cultural proficiency when working with both communities, as well as individual patients, or when developing policies that affect public health. This program takes a specific look at how these issues affect communities in the Central Valley.  

BOLD: Black Students Organizing for Leadership & Development – This is a student-initiated program founded in Fall 2020 by UC Merced Alumna Cheyenne Tompkins who found there was a need for Leadership Development that directly addressed both the beauty and the challenges of Black students’ experiences in leadership and leader development.  For the Fall 2021 launch of the program, the UC Merced Black Graduate Student Scholars will join in co-facilitating the program with The Souza Leadership Center staff. If there are other identity-based student organizations at UC Merced looking to create a similar program for the students within their communities, the Souza Leadership Center is happy to support.  

EMPOWER: Womxn’s Leader Development  – There is a very clear gender disparity in Leadership. This leads to fewer opportunities for women and less welcoming environments for women. In addition, women’s identities are not only shaped by their gender identity, but by the many other identities they hold. EMPOWER discusses those inequities and provides women with strategies to overcome such inequities and advocate for themselves and for others. We also discuss ways in which we can encourage our non-female-identifying colleagues to join the fight for gender equity.  

Leadership & Service Living Learning Community – This is a community in which students live together to learn about leadership and service. We challenge participants to get to know peers with different identities. We also encourage students to think about responsible community engagement with respect and value for equity and diversity.   

Would you like to learn more? Feel free to contact us!

Learn more about University-wide programs and strategies for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. EDI at UC Merced