Providing a Sense of Belonging for All Students, Now and in the Future

Math Professor Jim LinUC San Diego Math Professor Jim Lin is "living the dream of education." The son of Chinese immigrants, Dr. Lin credits the University of California with preparing him for success as a professor and for giving him a platform to help bridge cultural divides with many groundbreaking programs, not only for his math students, but for the entire university population.

As Graduate Vice Chair of the Math department at UC San Diego, Dr. Lin was instrumental in increasing the numbers of women and underrepresented students who obtain math PhDs, as well as reducing the time to earn a PhD from six years to 4.5 years. He was also one of the founders of the UC San Diego Cross Cultural Center and he taught the first Asian American Studies course at the university. As Acting Provost of Muir College and of Sixth College, he created the Teaching Diversity Conference and the Experiential Learning Conference. And he assisted in the creation of the first-in-the-nation Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, a global interdisciplinary resource with a mission to explore and advance imagination and to unlock its potential to transform science, culture, education and society. All the while, throughout his 40-year career, Dr. Lin has taught mathematics to more than 15,000 students.

But it is for the Cross Cultural Center that Dr. Lin and his wife, Julie, feel a special fondness. They have seen the benefits the Center has brought to the university and want the Center's good work to continue in the future. For this reason, they have made a bequest in their estate plans to further the mission of the Cross Cultural Center in the years ahead.

When the Cross Cultural Center opened in the mid-1990s, it quickly became the most utilized physical space on campus with more than 300 events per quarter. Over the years, the Center has become an important social anchor where students, staff, faculty and alumni come to learn and interact as they share common cultural interests. At UC San Diego, roughly one fourth of students are the first in their families to go to college and a similar number come from families with incomes of less than $65,000. A 30,000-student, 1500-acre campus can be daunting for any freshman or transfer student, but it is especially so for these undergraduates, and for them a space that feels like "home" can make a world of difference. In fact, former Chancellor Robert Dynes declared the Cross Cultural Center to be the "soul of the campus."

"It is extremely gratifying to visit the Cross Cultural Center and meet these new students who are the first in their families to have the opportunity for a college education and then, when they graduate, to see their parents' pride that comes with knowing that their son or daughter not only achieved the college dream, but will go on to graduate school, medical school, business or law school and can look forward to a better life," says Dr. Lin.

Now preparing for its 20th anniversary celebration, the Cross Cultural Center continues to offer innovative programming and assistance to faculty, students and staff. Dr. Lin says, "There is a tremendous need to provide a variety of resources and support to the multi-dimensional UC San Diego family. The Cross Cultural Center does that for the university. Whereas the academic departments provide the educational and technical support for our students, the Cross Cultural Center provides a sense of belonging that is crucial to student success. The welcoming atmosphere and the warmth of the Cross Cultural Center staff make the Center a safe haven for many students, staff and faculty. My heart is there."

As Jim Lin looks forward to retirement, he hasn't stopped thinking about ways to improve the college experience. He says, "Feeling connected and accepted correlate directly to overall achievement in college, but so is experiential learning. Employers now prefer college graduates who already have work experience. It's part of our duty as a university to provide those opportunities across a spectrum of fields." University leadership agrees: Experiential learning is now a key component of the UC San Diego Education Initiative.