Black Excellence Scholars

Black Excelence Dinner

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 (4.9%). 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. 

Application Process, Fall 2024

Open February 1 – March 1, 2024.      

Apply here

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


Glory Adeyemo* (May 2023)
Ife Ale
Jo-el Banini* (May 2023)
Sara Crane* (May 2023)
Helena Hailemicheal
Kayla Jones
Marilyn Nuamah* (May 2023)
Savanna Saunders
Dorthea Stephenson* (December 2023)
Monique Thomas
Zoie Strickling
Aaliyah Thompson-Mazzeo
Lauryn White* (May 2023)

*Graduating Scholars

Meet the 2023-2024 Cohort of Black Excellence Scholars

Headshot of Azrael

Azrael N. Andersen

Pronouns: He/They 
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Major: Architecture
Year in School: First Year
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2027

When I think of Black excellence, I think of thriving. I think of standing up against all odds and still succeeding despite them, which can sum up the Black Experience. Thriving is what Black people have been doing since before slavery and we still stand strong despite all the barriers put before us – we stand in spite of all that is against us. We demonstrate Black Excellence everyday by keeping our story alive, from talking about the Black heroes who paved the way for us to stand where we are to even sharing the personal accomplishments we make in our day to day life.

Headshot of Megan Bime in front of Old Main

Megan Bime

Pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Major: Physiology and Medical Sciences
Minor: Journalism
Year in School: Sophomore
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2026 

Black excellence is not solely about how much you can do in this moment, but it encompasses the steps you take towards growth both at an individual level and for the community. It is through this mindset that allows for greatness regardless of the field, study, or stage in life, because we all recognize the importance of growth along the way and have the strength to continue that growth despite the odds against us.

headshot of Olivia Blackman

Olivia Blackman

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown:  Douglasville, GA
Majors: Neuroscience & Cognitive Science 
Minors: Vocal Performance and Studio Art

Black excellence to me means genuine love and the sophistication of our divine roots. The proclamation of excellence is a fact and our history defines itself time and time again. When I hear the phrase "Black Excellence," it evokes a sense of elegance and instills hope for a brighter future. The term celebrates the history of those who came before, defining their excellence by what they did for generations to come, not just for themselves.

Headshot of Esme

Esme Canelos

Pronouns: She/Her
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Major: Communications and Political Science
Year in School: Sophomore 
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2026

Black excellence is striving to do your best possible. It means to be good and to do good as a person. It means living your life proud and confident to be Black, and to work hard but also play hard.

Headshot of Chloe

Chloe Horton

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: DC Suburbs  
Major: Africana Studies and Law 
Minor: French 
Year in School: Sophomore
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2026 

Black excellence is a high level of achievement but is also success despite the multitude of systemic and institutional system, prejudices, and roadblocks made to keep us down from the beginning. As long as there are steps forward, there is excellence.

Headshot of Daryl in a black and grey button down

Daryl Ijaola

Pronouns: He/Him 
Hometown: Queen Creek, AZ 
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Minor: Spanish and Health and Human Values
Year in School: Sophomore
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2026

Black Excellence means going for what you want and what is already yours with no remorse or regret despite the opinions and expectations of others. Black Excellence is going out to achieve those dreams we hold dear to our hearts in a world where more people would like to see our dreams fit their own box than see us move outside of our own. Black excellence is here, black excellence is now, and it will not stop.

Headshot of Lauryn in a white top

Lauryn Jones

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Charlotte, NC 
Major: Journalism
Year in School: Junior 
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2025 

I believe that every black person has the potential to let their black excellence shine in a way that speaks to them. It takes strength to carry yourself unapologetically and accept all risks. Instead of diminishing oneself to fit where one might not belong. Having Black excellence means you have the strength to overcome anything to get where you want to go.

Headshot of Nick with the backdrop of the desert

Nick Kyle

Pronouns: He/Him 
Hometown: Atlanta, GA 
Major: Architectural Engineering
Year in School: Sophomore  
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2026

Black excellence is having pride in the advancement of the Black community. W.E.B. DuBois and the Talented Tenth believed in the advancement of the Black community through academic excellence. I like to think of Black excellence as my family’s intergenerational history where each generation betters the livelihood of the next generation.

Headshot of Sierra in white top

Sierra Meeks

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Waterloo, IA 
Major: Environmental Studies and Water Resource Economics
Year in School: First Year
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2027

Black Excellence to me is striving to create the best image of yourself and for your community. Whether that is academically, athletically or politically, Black excellence can be on a large or small scale as long as it is prompting a positive image of who you want to be. I keep in mind how I want other people to see my community and that also motivates me to be the best version of myself.

Headshot of Rotimi Odeneye

Rotimi Odeneye

Pronouns: He/Him 
Year in School: Senior  
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2024 

Black excellence is a form of greatness originated within the African American community that has been passed on for many generations in many forms. Black excellence can be characterized through the hardships that the community had to face, only to blossom with excellence at the end. Not giving up, not backing down. Black excellence is resilient.

Headshot of Makayla in purple top

Makayla Payne

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Queen Creek, AZ
Year in School: Senior
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2024 

Black excellence means uplifting our community. Black Excellence means presenting oneself in the manner at which they hope to see in others. The phrase “be the change you want to see” rings true as one cannot expect change in their world without setting an example for what they want their world to be like.

Headshot of Paris in white top

Paris Perry

Pronouns: She/Her 
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ 
Major: Pre-Nursing
Minor: Africana Studies
Year in School: Sophomore
Anticipated Graduation Semester: Spring 2026

Black excellence is a lifestyle. It represents the joy, grace, and honor that Black people exhibit on a daily basis. We strive for the best, knowing that we will always be confronted with a world that has ignored our brilliance for centuries. Without the need of approval, we continue to demonstrate our greatness when it has been ignored and ridiculed. Black excellence is Me.