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Our Scholars


The Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship program is built on a commitment to diversity and inclusion, with outreach to high-achieving students from high schools, community colleges, organizations for underrepresented communities (such as Reality Changers), and students enrolled in federally recognized Native American tribes from all across California. 

Our exceptional awardees would like to share the incredible journeys that led them to UC San Diego: 


Meet this quarter's featured alumni

nadia biglari

Chancellor’s Associates Scholars: Nadia Biglari '19

Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program (CASP) Alumni, like Nadia Biglari ’19, go on to accomplish great things with your help. Nadia came to CASP as a transfer student from San Diego City College. She received her bachelor’s in environmental chemistry last year and is now pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Said Nadia, “My career goals are to become a principle investigator and a leading scientist conducting research with everyday health and quality of life relevance. But, more important than that is that I aspire to become a mentor, an educator and a humble human being who treats others with respect, with dignity and with care as my former Professor Mark Thiemens was to me. The Chancellor’s Associate Scholarship provided me the financial security needed to focus on my studies. As an immigrant who came to this country in 2008, I did not have the financial resources needed to satisfy all of the required basic needs that must be met before one can focus on personal growth, education and a future career. My UC San Diego education has opened doors for me as a person, scientist, teacher and mentor. Never in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined myself as an undergraduate student at a highly sought after, respected and reputable institution, let alone becoming a graduate student, a graduate teaching assistant and mentor to other students. I was able to perform and contribute to top-notch research conducted in the field of atmospheric chemistry under the direction of the world-renowned Dr. Mark Thiemens and was published as a second author in two high impact scientific journals. This experience helped me grow as a student and scientist, as well as the future researcher and leader that I aspire to become.”

Learn more about our other scholars and graduates: 

Francine Sotelo ’21

a-family-affair.jpgA Family Affair

In the 7th grade, Francine Sotelo ’21 met her future husband, Fernando ’21. They married at age 20 and later had two daughters while Fernando was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton. Francine and Fernando’s parents were immigrants from Mexico, and only one parent graduated from high school. The Sotelos decided they wanted more for their daughters and that they would need to set an example.

They enrolled at a local community college and pursued their studies despite many personal obstacles, such as needing to live with a friend and share a car to cut costs. The Sotelos later applied to UC San Diego and were both accepted. Making the spectacular news all the more exciting was that they both received a Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship, becoming the first married couple to become Chancellor Associate’s Scholars!

“Receiving the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarships was unbelievable,” Francine says. “It felt as though people believed in us and our abilities to achieve something we thought was never in our future.”

Francine says she not only wants to be “a voice for military wives, but for all girls who think going to a university is impossible. Higher education is absolutely possible regardless of age, background, and personal obstacles.”

Thank you for helping the Sotelos achieve their educational dreams and set an excellent example for their two daughters, Chloe and Lilly, who hope to attend The Preuss School. Please help us in welcoming our newest 2019 Chancellor’s Associates scholars and their families!

Jason Bermudez ’21


A Higher Purpose

Jason Bermudez ’21 dropped out of high school in New York City and instead received a GED. But the youngest of six siblings in his family of Puerto Rican descent decided years later he wanted to pursue higher education. He worked hard to become the first in his family to graduate from community college, and he did not stop there.

Jason heard UC San Diego was a great university that encouraged students to seek practical experience in their areas of study, so he applied. He was accepted and began his studies at UC San Diego’s Revelle College this fall! He says the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship made it possible for him to attend this prestigious university.

“The Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship was the best thing that has ever happened in my life as a student,” Jason says. “I was worried at first about how I was going to pay the extra dues, but now I can study calmly.”

Jason grew up in a religious family and has long had an interest in religion as a social and psychological phenomenon, so he plans to study the subject at UC San Diego.

“I would love to have a career as a researcher or a teacher, helping others understand the complexities of religion and their sacred texts,” Jason says.

Indira Hood-Esparza ’15, MA ’16

Indira Hood-Esparza

Indira Hood-Esparza’s family relocated here, from Mexico, in her childhood, and she grew up aspiring to expand education’s reach within her new community. The Preuss School sharpened her focus, and receiving the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship further intensified her drive. A first-generation college graduate, holding a 2015 bachelor’s and 2016 master’s from UC San Diego, Indira remains motivated by the comprehensive support she received on campus: “I felt like I had a mini family cheering me on the entire time that I was a scholar.” Eager to inspire coming generations, this former peer-mentor now teaches humanities at High Tech High Chula Vista, where she facilitates rich interdisciplinary discussions and emboldens students to carry curiosity beyond the classroom. Indira shared these experiences with our newest scholars, at July’s CASP 101, in hope they too might “pursue education as their careers” and “give back as much as possible,” turning dreams into rewarding action.

Jacqueline Le '17

Jacqueline Le

When Jacqueline Le ’17  opened a financial-aid packet from UC San Diego, she thought someone had made a mistake. She says her Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship “made it possible for me to find my passion and dedicate myself to work that I love.”

She kicked off her career last summer, participating in a UC San Diego School of Medicine internship program, where she will gained hands-on experience learning about diseases among underserved populations in the San Diego and Tijuana regions. With her background in public health, Le looks forward to a career serving others by finding innovative ways to expand access to health care and lower its costs.

Leslie Lopez '21

Ruber Lopez-Chavez

Civil-war violence, financial instability, teen pregnancy — these issues prevented Leslie Lopez and father from envisioning their future in their respective home countries, El Salvador and Guatemala. They fled to the United States to raise their children, and Leslie emphasizes that she and her brother grew up “understanding the blessing…of living in this country.” Upon graduating from the California Academy of Mathematics and Science (a magnet school in Carson, CA), she worried that her parents would be crushed by debt if she attended college. Still they encouraged Leslie to achieve what they couldn’t. When they found out Leslie had received a scholarship, “They were on the verge of tears, as was I…The scholarship was our saving grace.” She finds daily inspiration in being a Chancellor’s Associates Scholar, calling our group’s belief in her “the push I need to reach out and experience what this university truly has to offer.” A mechanical-engineering major who is ready to delve into leadership opportunities, she will serve as academic chair for the Society of Women Engineers in her sophomore year. No wonder Leslie has her parents beaming with pride!

Huy Nguyen '18

Huy NguyenLeaving Vietnam and settling in University Heights was a pivotal childhood transition for Huy Nguyen — a motivated student who was determined to reward his parents' unflagging support. Participating in resource programs like Reality Changers and Academic Connections led him to UC San Diego, and while admission to his “dream school” was significant, it was receiving the Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship that brought access. Huy notes, it “allowed me to be the first in my family to attend and graduate college” and removed the burdens of “taking out loans, working part-time jobs, and worrying my parents.”

Through the Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services Summer Bridge Program (a free transition program that allows first-year UC San Diego students to live on campus before the academic year begins, earn college credit, and further develop their academic skills), Huy made the connections that advanced him into aerospace engineering. Now, this 2018 graduate feels keenly prepared for his new Lockheed Martin Space Systems career in mission analysis and design, and noting that he will “forever be grateful for the world-class education” and “invaluable advice and guidance” he obtained here. We wish him every success ahead!

Meghan Stern '21

Meghan SternA graduate of local Lincoln High School, Meghan Stern ’21 came to UC San Diego ready to make a difference. The gregarious theater major, who also plans to pursue an educational-studies minor, notes that her Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship is helping her achieve her life goal: “to increase the importance of the arts in our society, especially in our K–12 educational system.” The oldest of four children, she hopes to heighten her siblings’ aspirations by inspiring them “to chase whatever dream they have until they reach it.” She credits the Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program with boosting her confidence, both socially and academically, and with giving her “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gather…knowledge and skills.” Keep following your dreams, Meghan! 

Rabia Syed '21

Rabia SyRabia Syeded’s academic record shines. A native of Los Angeles, Rabia received her diploma from the 
California Academy of Mathematics and Science and is excited to pursue her higher education at UC San Diego. Rabia is majoring in public health and considering a double major in Spanish. She hopes to study-abroad for a semester and pursue a master’s degree. With two older sisters already in college, Rabia is extremely grateful that her Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship has lightened the economic load for her parents, granting her the “opportunity to pursue further education without having to worry about the financial costs.” Joining the Muslim Student Association has eased her transition, and she notes that campus is now her “home away from home.” Much success, Rabia!

Maria Triplett '20

Maria TriplettSophomore Maria Triplett is eagerly preparing for the future, with a clear focus on earning her doctorate in ethnic studies and ultimately working to improve the quality and accessibility of health care for women from underserved communities. As a student at Gompers Preparatory Academy, Maria dreamed of becoming the first in her family to attend a four-year university but was concerned about the burden to her single-parent household. Then came her life-changing Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship and the accompanying support of the Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program. Maria is grateful for the Chancellor’s Associates “dedication to help students succeed, especially first-generation students….The scholarship has made me push harder in terms of academic work and motivated me to give back.” Look out, world!

Lexius Waltar '18

Lexius WaltarAs a first-generation college student, receiving a Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship was important to Lexius Waltar ’18, who says, “It means a lot to me and my family that I was able to continue pursuing my passions into higher education.”

Majoring in environmental systems, with a minor in African American studies, Waltar makes time in her busy schedule to advocate for other students’ success, as a freshman-mentoring intern with the Summer Bridge Program and as a member of the Black Student Union. She also attended the University of the West Indies on a study-abroad program.

Access to UC San Diego has expanded her horizons, and she’s ready to pay it forward. “This opportunity has not only opened doors for me but also for my family,” she says.

Khalil Williams '20

Khalil WilliamsKhalil Williams isn’t waiting until he graduates in 2020 to start cultivating real-world change. This Chancellor’s Associates Scholar has enrolled as a double major in political science and clinical psychology, and he volunteers with UC San Diego’s Foster the Students organization, which mentors students who have come through the foster and social-service systems and connects these learners to the campus’s full range of support services. Already an advocate for young people who are overcoming challenging backgrounds, Khalil ultimately plans to join forces with his sister and establish a juvenile-psychotherapy practice with a legal emphasis, in order to address criminal-justice issues and improve the lives of children nationwide. Our scholars put plans into action!