ACE Honors University of California President Janet Napolitano with 2018 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award
March 12, 2018

ACE announced today that Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California (UC), is the recipient of the 2018 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award.

The award is named in honor of Reginald Wilson, senior scholar emeritus at ACE and founding director of the Council's Office of Minority Concerns (now part of ACE Leadership). It is presented annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions and demonstrated sustained commitment to diversity in higher education.

The award was presented today at ACE2018​, ACE's 100th Annual Meeting. Accepting the award on Napolitano’s behalf was Yvette Gullat, UC vice provost and chief outreach officer.

“Now more than ever, we need leaders like Janet Napolitano who are committed to mobilizing the university as an institution of intellectual, economic, and social opportunity for people from all backgrounds,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “Her focus on advancing diversity at all levels at the University of California and across the country makes me very pleased to give her this award.”

As the 20th president of UC, and the first woman in that role, Napolitano has implemented many policies focused on inclusion for ethnic, racial, and gender minorities. She has appointed exemplary women and underrepresented minorities at all levels of the university, including key executive roles, creating a highly diverse leadership cabinet.

As the original author of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Napolitano has spent her tenure as president launching initiatives designed to help Dreamers succeed at UC and beyond. She helped create the university’s Immigrant Legal Services Center, which provides free legal assistance to UC students and their families.

In 2016, she issued the “University of California Statement of Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community,” which clarifies that primary jurisdiction over enforcement of federal immigration law rests with the federal government and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, precluding UC from contacting, detaining, questioning, or arresting individuals solely on the basis of suspected immigration status. She was also responsible for the university’s sponsorship of a bill that established the California DREAM Loan Program, which aims to allow eligible undocumented high school students the opportunity to apply for loans to help pay for their education.

In 2015, Napolitano launched an initiative to provide California Community College students seeking to earn a UC degree in 10 popular majors, from economics to cell biology, with a clear academic roadmap to prepare for admission at any UC campus and be well positioned to graduate within two years. The program represented a major step toward creating a simple, straightforward process to streamline transfer to UC from California's community colleges, with the additional goal of helping to save students time and money by avoiding unneeded courses. At UC, she has also launched a number of initiatives aimed at expanding opportunities for underserved populations.

Under her leadership, for example, the university is partnering with historically black colleges and universities to provide opportunities for their graduates to attend UC for their graduate careers. UC is also enhancing resources for undocumented students in recognition that these students face unique challenges. And the university announced last fall that all 10 UC campuses are joining together in a system-wide effort to connect first-generation students with faculty mentors who have walked in their shoes, and to facilitate access to resources to help these students succeed.

Napolitano earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, graduating summa cum laude in 1979 from Santa Clara University (CA), where she was Phi Beta Kappa, a Truman Scholar, and the university’s first female valedictorian. She received her law degree in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Law, and, in 2010, she was awarded the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal (Law), the University of Virginia’s highest external honor.

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