Skip to content

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion | Souza Leadership Center

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

Local indigenous people, including the Yokuts and Miwuk who understand the earth as a place for everyone, first inhabited the land where UC Merced is located. Learn more here about why it is important to recognize land. 

The Margo F. Souza Student Leadership Center is a unit with the Office of Leadership, Service and Career. 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 work to address existing frameworks that contribute to oppression including racism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, xenophobia, ageism, sexism, transphobia, microaggressions, and all other forms of discrimination.  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, among many additional frameworks of oppression). 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. 

To learn more about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts within the Office of Leadership, Service and Career (OLSC), visit the OLSC Equity page

What are some ways this shows up in The Souza Leadership Center 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.    

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.  

EMPOWER: Womxn & Allies 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.  During our USTU-10 LLC Course, students learn about the importance of embracing their many identities. We discuss intersectionality. We also discuss how to address inequities in the community and in the field of leadership. 


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