By Debra Bass
[6 minute read]
Models of philanthropy continue to change, and so, too, do models of stewardship. Edward Abeyta has been a pioneer in this arena – building upon innovative, sustainable, effective and replicable achievements that continue to magnify UC San Diego’s commitment to expanding access and opportunities for diverse communities. In the last year alone, Dr. Abeyta secured more than $1 million for pre‐collegiate programs at UC San Diego. He also has annual commitments in equal amounts for up to the next five years from private donors, city agencies and foundations.
Through his unique approach to networking, Ed engages the community and donors as an active listener, problem‐solver, connector and advocate of the University’s mission and the donor passion to advance the frontiers of knowledge within underserved populations. Aside from his personal interactions, Ed cultivates long‐term support with donors through methods such as strategic marketing plans, annual reports, program‐specific data, impact videos, events and testimonials from the beneficiaries. This has assisted programs and partnerships like Native American Tribal Council, Public Libraries, High School Summer Programs, Community Centers, and Community Colleges.
Starting with Academic Connections, a program that provides a socio‐economically diverse population of high‐achieving, college‐bound high school students with an opportunity to have a summer residential experience on UC San Diego’s campus, Ed has helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship underwriting for a program which in the last decade has served more than 4,000 pre‐college youth. His efforts include attracting $15,000 in funds from Kathy Watson to support foster youth and $30,000 from the Hellman Foundation to support funding for students from economically disadvantaged households interested in Sally Ride Science Junior Academy.
Nearly 40 percent of participants have received nearly $2 million in financial assistance thanks to Ed’s stewardship and leadership. A strong partnership with a UC San Diego alumnus and foundation dedicated to transforming the lives of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds allows Ed to maintain the relationship by delivering results. Of Academic Connections participants, more than 80 percent reported an intent to attend a four‐year college or University. Of those who enrolled at UC campuses, 24 percent chose UC San Diego, 18 percent UC Berkeley, 16 percent UC Los Angeles. Having academic experiences with UCSD early and often has reaped countless benefits for less advantaged, promising students.
A tireless community advocate who thinks outside the box, Ed often works to create opportunities for learners by enlisting underutilized community assets. When public libraries were addressing how to assure their neighborhood value and visits, Ed saw an opportunity. Libraries had unused space and Ed had programming that needed space.
Library NExT (Network of Education x Training) started as a pilot program in six San Diego libraries in underserved communities in 2017 with seed funds from a private philanthropist. The program now includes 21 local libraries and continues to expand based on overwhelming demand. The city of San Diego has committed to providing $500,000 a year in funding for the next three years. To date, nearly 6,000 elementary and middle school students have been introduced to robotics, circuitry, and other STEAM fields thanks to the no‐cost and low‐cost UC San Diego Extension and San Diego City project. Private philanthropic support that has included nearly $250,000 a year in funds from the Girard Foundation helps pay instructors, provide course materials, expand programming, thus enabling this effort to thrive. Support from other libraries requesting the program, municipalities approving the initiative and donors inspired to contribute to a groundbreaking program continues because of Ed’s advocacy and the program’s impressive outcomes.
When it comes to communities in need of access to education, Ed assesses how to fill gaps that attract widespread support and, ultimately, applause. The underserved indigenous Kumeyaay people were excited to partner with Ed’s pre‐college programs to enrich opportunities for the youth in their tribe. Members of the Viejas, Sycuan, and Barona bands of the Kumeyaay people participate in classes and workshops tailored to their specific needs – and some classes are held in their native tongue. These efforts include the Intertribal Court of Southern California, which includes Morongo, La Jolla, among others.
Academic experiences they benefit from are located on Catalina Island, Hawai’i Island, the Biosphere 2 research facility in Arizona and on Native American reservations in San Diego County. They cover subjects as diverse as STEAM, sustainability and digital citizenship. The partnership between UC San Diego Extension, UC San Diego’s Intertribal Resource Center, and the tribes themselves is unprecedented. It succeeds because of the level of diplomatic coordination and sustained reporting Ed provides, which supports the program’s benefits and growth.
Ed promotes the excellence of UC San Diego as an aspiration for students all over the world. Recently, the Inamori Foundation, based in Kyoto, Japan, has committed $100,000 a year for the next four years in scholarships to support pre‐college programs that combine the arts, science and engineering for low income and first‐generation youth. The foundation also supports the prestigious international Kyoto Prize lectures at UC San Diego.
One of Ed’s most recent initiatives was celebrated in the media and stimulated a number of spontaneous pledges of philanthropic support from inspired donors. A new UC San Diego education center located in National City will serve the underserved South Bay San Diego region. The initiative started with Ed, city officials, and other education advocates brainstorming ways to enrich the region by unleashing the social and intellectual capital of a region that has been largely ignored. The city committed to an investment of land and financial incentives. Private donors are committing to providing capital; Ed is working with nonprofits, philanthropic foundations and government agencies to support the development of yet another portfolio of innovative programs in the South Bay to prepare students for their college or career paths, promote learning for parents, assist veterans transitioning to civilian life and provide much-needed resources for teachers.
The pre‐college programs under Ed’s leadership have grown 100 percent in the last five years. More than 40 percent of their revenue has been used to award about $4 million in scholarships and financial assistance to eager students in underserved communities. Because Ed’s pre‐college offerings are tailored to the specific needs of communities and are delivered free or at low‐cost through career education at adult schools, libraries, YMCAs, and government agencies, they inspire and cultivate philanthropic and generous support from partners.
His work in every sector of the community puts Ed in a unique position to leverage his ability to build bridges among diverse communities. Ed has worked for UC San Diego since 1992, holding the position of Registrar in Extension, Staff Advisor to the Regents and a member of the UC Commission on the Future. He joined UC San Diego Extension in 1995 as a counselor for the Early Academic Outreach Program. He is now Associate Dean of Education and Community Engagement, a program that serves more than 5,000 pre‐college students and 10,000 teachers annually, creating a much-needed pipeline to higher education.
According to Mary Walshok, Dean of UC San Diego Extension, “Ed creates opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist. His integrity, vast knowledge, and astounding personal‐professional relationships have done wonders to advance the University’s mission to be of service. He effortlessly links members of the community, the corporate sector, students, scientists, and university officials in ways that enable groundbreaking programs. Ed builds trust and inspires confidence in ways that consistently produce results that are valued in the community and bring respect and appreciation to UC San Diego.”
Visit the 2020 Excellence in Stewardship Awards website to learn more.