This story was originally published in the Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion blog here.
In response to a national call for action, the George Floyd Memorial Fund in the Black Cultural Center (BCC) was established to support programs committed to advancing the interests of the next generation of aspiring Black leaders. Out of this fund grew Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. powered by George Floyd Memorial Fund, a program focused on nurturing future leaders and empowering effective problem-solving skills. Each fellow, selected through a competitive application process, is required to participate in monthly skill-building sessions, develop strategic programming/projects and represent the BCC through the fall and spring semesters—culminating with a presentation of their program and closing ceremony.
The first cohort of Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (Students United to Create Cultural and Educational Success Stories) has proven that this initiative is not only a success itself, but is indeed establishing a legacy of successful leaders and powerful stories.
2021-22 Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. fellow
Chris Hixson is a strategic communication major with dreams of working in the advertising technology industry. She loves game nights and claims to be a “die-hard Seahawks fan, Jazz fan, NWSL and RSL fan!” In addition to pursuing her degree, representing the Black Cultural Center, and working on her Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. project, Hixon runs a wedding videography and photography company with her partner. With an entrepreneurial perspective, Hixon's Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. project is centered around Black wealth management.
“The goal is to integrate certified financial planners (CFP’s) into the framework of the BCC. The CFP’s will provide services to students to decrease the disproportionately high average of student loans among Black student borrowers in comparison to other demographics. Additionally, the CFP’s will assist eligible Black high school seniors in the surrounding areas to complete the FAFSA application to minimize need for future student loans.
“It’s an honor [to be a member of the first cohort]! It feels good to be a part of an organization built by people like me for people like me. Our community is growing at such a crucial time when people really need to feel a sense of belonging. It’s an amazing support system, that I’m extremely grateful to be a part.”
2021-22 Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. fellow.
Jin Heo is an international student from Incheon, Korea, who is particularly interested in dismantling structural inequalities through adopting empathy and implementing innovative logic. With plans on pursuing a career in social justice work, Heo is hoping to continue his academic career by studying philosophy and gender/feminist studies in graduate school. His Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. project, which he refers to as an “African LLC (Living, Learning Community),” centers on peer mentorship and student belonging at a predominately white institution.
“I am happy to say that my hopes for this project are coming to fruition as other students and I are already engaged with Housing and other departments to make this project into reality. My dream is that this LLC will create a long-lasting impact on not only the University of Utah but in other universities as a role model of inclusion and belonging.
“Growing up in an immigrant household as the first-born, being the first or number one was ingrained in my head. This physical and psychological stress burdened the very essence of my self-perception and my identity. While being the first always leaves a bad taste in my mouth, being the very first cohort has made me realize the bright side of it, such as making improvements to Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. so that future fellows would experience an even better program. For me, being the first cohort helped me realize a lot of myself and helped me enjoy being an example instead of fearing it.”
2021-22 Operation SUCCESS fellow
Tyler Clark is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Economics Master’s Program who enjoys city-builder games and carries a passion for social justice. For his Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. project, Clark has been applying this passion towards developing a research mechanism to countervail inequitable policies and institutions in higher education by exposing the use of co-opted and superficial language.
“It is honorable [to be part of Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S.] that in any case my cohort will set the example for future fellows. It means a lot to be able to set the tone and standard for what being a fellow means and set the tone for what we as underrepresented students should be demanding.
“My hopes for the future are that the BCC and the University of Utah sever any ties to those institutions, associations, or persons only seeking to enrich themselves and/or their corporate allies–which famously do not share the same goals consistent with justice–and sever ties to any institutions, associations or persons who seek to augment, naturalize and maintain capitalism in any stage.”
Apply for Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
The application process for the second cohort of Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. has begun! In a joint effort between the Black Cultural Center and Black Advisory Council, four S.U.C.C.E.S.S. fellows (two undergraduate and two graduate students) will be selected to learn organizational design and develop into justice-oriented leaders.
To apply or nominate students for the 2022-2023 Operation S.U.C.C.E.S.S. cohort, please visit diversity.utah.edu/success.