Skip to main content

A Decade of Scholarship

Chancellor's Associates Scholars Program leaves a lasting impression.

Group with Chancellor Associates Scholars gather for a year-end celebration.

Published Date

Article Content

This story was published in the Fall 2022 issue of UC San Diego Magazine

It’s been nearly 10 years since Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla announced a new, transformational scholarship program that has changed the lives of more than 2,000 UC San Diego students.

The Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program, or CASP, was established to support and empower talented, high-achieving students whose families lack the financial resources to send them to college.

“I am so pleased the program has positively changed the lives of so many students over the last decade,” says Chancellor Khosla. “By covering the cost of tuition, books, housing, basic needs and transportation, and by supporting these scholars with programming specifically designed for their needs, we are ensuring they have the ability to thrive in their studies and the opportunity to develop skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.”

To qualify for CASP, a recipient must be a California resident with a demonstrated financial need: Family income must be less than $80,000 and a student must also demonstrate the academic competency required for admittance to UC San Diego. Today, the program boasts nearly 1,200 current students.

Group of students with Chancellor's Associate Scholars medals.
Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla with recent graduate Maximilliano Ceballos '22 at a celebration for Chancellor's Associates Scholars.

Recent graduate Maximiliano Ceballos ’22, an Alumni Board of Directors Chancellor’s Associates Scholar, would not have had the financial resources to attend college were it not for CASP. Ceballos grew up in Tijuana, regularly commuting across the border for classes at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., until his family moved to nearby Bonita. After four years, Ceballos, a pre-med biology major with a minor in philosophy, was urged by his college counselor to “shoot for UC San Diego,” his dream school.

“When I found out I was admitted to UCSD, I was very pleasantly surprised,” he recalls. “But, when I found out I was getting a full-ride Chancellor’s Associates Scholarship, I almost didn’t believe it.”

The world of financial aid can be a complicated one that students are often required to navigate on their own, that is separate from the university application process. With CASP, qualified students who are admitted to UC San Diego are notified when they are accepted that they will be supported over their four years—or two years if they are a transfer student—at the university with what amounts to an annual award of $10,000.

CASP launched with three partner high schools in San Diego: The Preuss School UC San Diego, Gompers Preparatory Academy, and Lincoln High School. Through this partnership, all qualified admitted students from these schools were guaranteed financial and academic support. With continued philanthropic support from donors, CASP expanded its reach and now supports qualified admitted students from a total of eight partnership high schools, adding Hoover, Morse, e3 Civic, Crawford and San Diego, along with qualified transfer students from Southwestern, Imperial Valley, and San Diego City colleges. Additionally, members of the San Diego-based nonprofit organization, Reality Changers, who also participate in the university’s Academic Connections program and are admitted to UC San Diego, also receive the scholarship. CASP additionally honors an open nomination process: Nonprofit organizations can nominate up to two qualified students from other high schools or community colleges. The scholarship is also awarded to students from San Diego and Imperial counties who are registered members of federally recognized Native American tribes.

In 2014, Belinda Zamacona was hired as director of CASP and given an ambitious charge—to build and implement a solid and comprehensive retention program that would enable the students who received a Chancellor’s Associates scholarship to thrive over their years at UC San Diego.

“Creating the scholarship program was a fabulous idea,” says Zamacona. “But it was just as important to create a support network that would arm students with the knowledge and resources they would need to effectively navigate the campus.”

And it appears that Zamacona has accomplished just that. CASP now includes a vigorous peer mentor program that engages students from the outset, giving them access to a wide range of services and  activities—from internships and summer session programs to faculty assistance and academic support. And because the peer mentor program is coordinated by current CASP recipients, they are very familiar with the unique challenges new students are likely to encounter.

CASP also includes a variety of small and focused learning communities that can support students when they need to make important decisions related to their academic experiences

"We exist to support our students and to make sure they get everything they need to thrive at UC San Diego."
Belinda Zamacona, director, Chancellor's Associates Scholars Program

“We exist to support our students and to make sure they get everything they need to thrive at UC San Diego,” says Zamacona. “We have five full-time staff members and more than 60 students serving as mentors and program assistants to ensure that any problem or issue that students have gets addressed.”

And because CASP has created a nurturing and supportive community for its students, it’s not surprising that some choose to stay and work at UC San Diego after graduation.

CASP recipient Nirvana Navarro ’17, a transfer student from Imperial College, is a financial analyst at UC San Diego who recently completed her first year of graduate school at San Diego State University. “I will never forget how CASP staff encouraged me to keep dreaming and to dream big,” says Navarro. She credits staff members like Karen Van Ness, MA ’97 with guiding her experience as an undergraduate. “I wasn’t sure I fit in, and I was ready to withdraw,” says Navarro. “However, under the patient guidance of Karen, I was able to weather the ups and downs and find my true calling.”

Student with CASP medal
Category navigation with Social links