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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

The Second Provost

In 1981, Faustina Solis became the second provost of Thurgood Marshall College, then known as Third. Solis, who established public health coursework for undergraduates and medical students at UC San Diego, had arrived at the campus in 1972 after a long career focused on healthcare for underserved populations.

For Solis, now in her 80s, retired and still living in San Diego, the seven-year stint as provost was an opportunity to continue and clarify the mission of the small-but-growing college. Of utmost emphasis: engaging minority students.

“I found it very important to be a participant and to talk to parents and younger students and answer their questions and doubts about completing college,” Solis says. “I knew exactly what they were going through.”

Solis came from a financially strapped family of 12. Her father, a Mexican immigrant, attended English classes at night school after a 10-hour workday. “He knew that if his children were to get ahead, he had to be a model for them in terms of study,” she explains.

As provost, Solis promoted mentoring programs aimed at incoming students, particularly minorities. “They weren’t left to fly by themselves,” she says. “Freshman and transfer students can feel very lost in a large university. They need support and assistance in every way possible, whether financial, social or counseling.”

Kristin Kalla, Marshall ’87, is one of the students who benefitted from Solis’s sound advice, mentorship and assistance. Kalla wanted to travel to rural Botswana in Africa to work with Operation Crossroads but did not have the money. “Without a word, she took out her checkbook and wrote me a personal check for $500,” recalls Kalla, who now works at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Netherlands. “I don’t think she realized what she did for me. She told me to help other people—especially young people.”

Solis believed that minorities found comfort in ethnically focused social activities, including special graduation ceremonies, although she also believed that college-wide interaction should be equally encouraged. “We wanted to bring together diverse groups of students and give them opportunities in a setting that would not be alien to them, but very much a part of life and experience, and to share that experience with their own families.”

Solis, who had mentored a handful of students since middle school, during outreach efforts in local neighborhoods, also pushed her young charges to become active in their communities.

“Students were placed in various community facilities that were not too far from their homes,” says Solis. “They could look at what was really going on in their communities in a more dynamic way, and then have the desire to do something, to be part of that.”

Public service is still a key element at Marshall, with the model being that the student is both a scholar and a citizen. To accommodate this, the curriculum gives students the option of substituting one of their upper division breadth courses for a public service requirement, e.g. going into the community and tutoring at an
elementary school.

“The word that comes to mind in thinking about the tone that Professor Solis set at Third College is ‘caring,’” says Professor Emeritus Cecil Lytle, who took the reins from Solis and served as provost of Marshall from 1988 until 2006.

“Through the force of her personality, Provost Solis made all of us believers in the notion that Third College was our collegiate home away from home,” says Lytle. “For students of color, especially, this was a welcoming notion.”

Professor Joe Watson, Third College’s first provost was featured in the May 2007 issue of @UCSD, and Professor Cecil Lytle, Third College’s third provost, in the May 2005 issue.

—AnnaMaria Stephens, ERC ’97.