Black Excellence Scholars

Black female student in the Honors Village

The Black Excellence Scholars program is designed to support and empower students of the African Diaspora in the W.A. Franke Honors College.

Black and African Americans are underrepresented in the college (3.3%). This program is an intentional effort to impact recruitment, retention, and graduation with honors. The program will center the experiences of Black and African American students and integrate culturally responsive, culturally conscious pedagogy. 

Program Goals

  • To strengthen community building and connections among Black scholars in the W.A. Franke Honors College 
  • To increase retention of Black scholars in the W.A. Franke Honors College 
  • To introduce scholars to research opportunities that will lead to thesis completion and graduation with honors 
  • To enrich the educational, social, and cultural experiences of Black scholars 
  • To provide professional and leadership development opportunities 
  • To connect scholars with Black faculty, staff, and leaders at UArizona and throughout the Tucson community 
  • Provide culturally responsive mentoring and support 

For questions on the program, please email Franke Honors Assistant Dean, Programs, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Cheree Meeks.


If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far,
go together.

-African Proverb


Male black student smiling

Program Components

Include culturally relevant monthly meetings that
focus on:

  • Academic support: Achieve academic goals with culturally
    responsive support 
  • Mentorship opportunities: Engage with peers, faculty, staff, and
    community leaders  
  • Leadership development: Cultivate leadership skills with an understanding of the role culture plays in Black leadership 
  • Courageous conversations: Engage in critical thinking and discourse regarding social and cultural identity, social justice, and
    personal experiences 
  • Cultural encounters: Experience rich culture in and around Southern Arizona through cultural events and educational programming, which empower and celebrate Black identity and culture 
  • Social events: Connect with peers in an inclusive environment, cultivating a sense of belonging 


Female black student in lab

 Incentives for Participation

Gain support in the University and Tucson community at large.

  • Access to research opportunities
  • Cultural community experiences
  • Community connections
  • $500 stipend/award for active participation and
    completion of the program


Black. Lead. Amplify. Culture. Knowledge

Meet the 2022-23 Inaugural Cohort of Black Excellence Scholars

Glory Adeyemo

Glory Adeyemo

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Surprise, AZ
Major/Minor: Physiology and Medical Sciences

Black excellence is fluid. Black excellence is what you make of it. Black excellence is defined by those who embody it. It has been an outlet for others to celebrate one another within our communities despite the challenges that we face on a daily basis. Black excellence is hope. It is the belief that if one person made it, we all have made it. Black excellence is a force. It keeps one another going, incites passion and drive. Black excellence is me, Glory A. Adeyemo. 

Ife Ale

Ife Ale

Pronouns: He/him/his 
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria 
Major: Computer Science 
Minor: Business Administration 

Black people in this country have faced many obstacles over the years, even when trying to live comfortably. Amid struggles they faced, including segregation, redlining, racial profiling, mass incarceration, and systemic racism, many have transcended social norms and established themselves in the pages of history. The achievements I think about extend beyond the fight against racism, but as Black people, we made waves in science, government, entertainment, and sports, and continue to do so. When I think about Black excellence, I think about these people who were determined enough to go through hell at times to succeed at the things they were passionate about.  

Jo-el Banini

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers 
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona 
Majors: Global Studies with an Emphasis in Health & Physiological Sciences  
Minor: Spanish 

When you introduce a group of people to the idea that they are capable of greatness and success, the spark catches and a hope flame is introduced. Black excellence is that spark that has started a wildfire in the hearts of Black people all around the globe as they awaken to the realization that their worth is far superior to that of society’s expectations on the reality of being Black. Black excellence puts an end to unnecessary and subliminal squandering of bright-minded, intelligent, and hardworking Black people  who felt they did not stand a chance. It is supporting talents and abilities that otherwise would have been forgotten or dismissed due to the color of one’s skin. All in all, I believe it is important to note that in every case and in every circumstance, Black Excellence is Me. 

Sara Crane

Pronouns: She/her/hers 
Hometown: Seattle, Washington 
Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology 
Minors: Spanish, Health and Human Values 

The Black students I know in the Franke Honors College are scholars, community organizers, leaders, volunteers, and so much more. In the face of racially-motivated incidents on campus and in the Tucson community, they are organizing and participating in protests and demonstrations. They are going above and beyond academically and then sharing their experiences with other Black students so that we don’t have to suffer the same stumbling blocks. They are artists drawing eyes to injustice. Black excellence is the courage to be our best selves every day, even when it’s difficult. 

Helena Hailemicheal 

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona  
Major: Physiology and Medical Sciences 
Minor: Psychology 

Black excellence means thriving and flourishing as a Black/African American person regardless of the odds you face to help and uplift your community. It means challenging myself to achieve greatness personally, civilly, and socially with the help and support of Black/African American counterparts to help those who are not or were not able to get as far as I have come. Working hard, paving a way for a better future, and changing social constructs against African Americans is something I hope to achieve as an example of Black excellence. 

Kayla Jones

Kayla Jones

Pronouns: she/her 
Hometown: Bolingbrook, Illinois 
Majors: Psychology, Family Studies and Human Development 
Minor: Spanish 

Black excellence means success despite adversity, institutional racism, and other forces that oppose us. Black excellence is when we rise and prosper even after hundreds of years of being exploited and abused. Black excellence, simply put, means taking the actions that portray Black people for who we truly are: resilient and strong. 

Marilyn Nuamah

Marilyn Nuamah

Pronouns: she/her 
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina  
Major: Biology with an emphasis in Biomedicine 
Minor: Family Studies and Human Development 

Black excellence means the epitome of everything great. It refers to a high quality of success or achievement that is demonstrated by a Black person. I feel as though black people often hold ourselves to a higher standard and when we see a member of the community excel, it feels as though it is an achievement for the entire race. 

Savanna Saunders

Pronouns: She/her 
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona 
Major: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology  
Minors: Spanish and Marine Science 

Black excellence is a mindset backed by continuous powerful actions of Black and African Americans. It is important to create a community that can support each other in times of need as well as in times of celebration. Celebration of Black excellence is also a time for the younger generations to gain role models of Black people that can inspire them to pursue their own goals as they grow older. 

Dorthea Stephenson

Dorthea Stephenson

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona 
Majors: Music Performance and Astronomical Studies 

Black excellence is individuals who want to enact change in their community and take the steps to do so. The magnitude of those accomplishments does not matter because the willingness to invoke change is much more powerful. 

Zoie Strickling 

Zoie Strickling 

Pronouns:  she/her 
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona 
Major: Law  
Minors: Korean Language and Africana Studies 

A single definition cannot define Black excellence because Black people are not all the same. Our interests, opinions, and lifestyles diverge; we are all connected due to the beautiful yet tumultuous experience that is being Black in a world that does not want to see you succeed. I have decided that my version of Black excellence is to put forth my best efforts in receiving an education that will prepare me to advocate as an attorney to protect the human rights and civil rights of people across the globe. When a Black person decides to pursue their passions and interests unapologetically, this is Black excellence.” 

Monique B. Thomas

Monique B. Thomas

Pronouns: She/her/hers 
Hometown: Chandler, Arizona 
Major: Biomedical Engineering 
Minor: Pre-Health 

Black excellence is essentially an essence of representing the future and capabilities of strongly grounded, passionate, and well-organized Black communities. It can truly apply in many connotations, whether it is beauty, social movements, or professional sports. In the academic setting, I firmly believe that Black excellence is the striding example of success and pride in the face of adversity and silent struggles brought about by the ever so bipartisan society we live in. 

Aaliyah Thompson-Mazzeo

Pronouns: she/her 
Hometown: Irvine, California 
Major: Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering 
Minors: Dance and Mathematics 

My definition of Black excellence is the actions of a successful and educated Black person to inspire their community to achieve high levels of success and to help elevate the community as a whole. As a representative of Black excellence, I strive to influence my peers to pursue their passions with confidence. 

Lauryn White

Lauryn White

Pronouns: she/her/hers 
Hometown: Chandler, Arizona 
Major: Nutritional Sciences  
Minors: Health and Human Values, Spanish 

To me, Black excellence signifies the tenacity that the Black community demonstrates in spite of the many adversities and systemic disadvantages that we face. Against so many barriers, my family has been able to not only achieve great success, but also utilize it to strengthen our community as a whole. I am so excited to follow in their footsteps and continue this legacy.