2011 Renaissance Award Recipients
Vara Baucom’s journey to UCLA began when she was a child who learned to love reading very early in life. As the child of an immigrant mother and a father born and raised in the South, she found that her experiences were not often reflected in public school curriculum, which led her to intellectually disengage from the classroom. Her passion for reading, however, led her to the public library where she devoured books on feminism and philosophy. After leaving high school, she worked full-time for four years before realizing her hunger for intellectual stimulation, personal exploration, and social change needed to be fully engaged. At Los Angeles City College, Vara learned that she could foster social change by exploring her personal experiences through academics. She began to share this new-found understanding with other students at LACC through her activities in student government and as a volunteer working with middle school students in AmeriCorp's CityYear program. Her interest in transferring to UCLA developed out of her involvement with the Center for Community College Partnerships (CCCP). Though CCCP, Vara had the opportunity to engage with staff and students at UCLA who shared similar life experiences and goals, including Samantha Hogan, one of her first contacts with the network of intellectual support called the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA. Through courses in the Department of Gender Studies, Vara is realizing a lifelong dream of studying gender issues as experienced and expressed throughout the world and is currently conducting research on Latina Angelenos who listen to heavy metal music. Her plans include pursuing a Ph.D. in Gender Studies.
Teresa Anne Pitts is a non-traditional, transfer student from Santa Monica College where she obtained an Associate Degree with High Honors in 2010 while working full-time as an instructor at Time Warner Cable. In 2005, she returned to college after being out of the academic track for over 20 years with a renewed commitment for continuing her education and obtaining her degrees. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Society and a lifetime member of Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society. A junior with a major in English and a Minor in Civic Engagement, she is a member of the UCLA Honors Program, Academic Advancement Program (AAP) and Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society. She is currently doing her Civic Engagement internship with Upward Bound where she has been a dedicated volunteer since 2009, helping underserved high school students realize their dreams of being the first in their families to attend a four-year university. This summer she is taking a Master’s Prep Course to further her plans of obtaining her Master’s Degree and Ph.D. She was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society for volunteering over 100 hours of volunteer service and is one of 24 national recipients of the 2011 Thurgood Marshall Gold Standard Scholarship. As she continues her academic journey, she will continue having hands-on contact with communities that need her assistance. Teresa’s passion for motivating people to persevere through their challenges continues to be one of her priorities.
Update: Teresa will graduate in June with College Honors and will attend four graduation ceremonies: The Honors ceremony, The Main ceremony, the English Department ceremony, and the Afrikan Graduation ceremony. After graduation, she will travel New York for a week, all expenses paid, thanks to “Wheel of Fortune” (she taped the show in December 2011 and won $7500 and the trip). When she returns, she will prep for the GRE and apply to UCLA for the Masters or Ph.D. program. She will also continue working with Upward Bound on the Santa Monica College campus.--June 2012