Triton 5: Sandra Timmons ’81

Woman with blonde hair and glasses wearing an orange cardigan over a blue shirt stands in front of Geisel LibraryEveryone has answers to the Triton 5. Send yours to

01.     What do you do? I’ve been in educational media, philanthropy and volunteerism, but I’m most excited for what I will do as the alumni regent for the University of California, having a role in the governance of the UC system. The Regents mainly debate and decide the policies by which the UCs operate—the budget, staff compensation and regional advocacy—but the alumni regent particularly advocates for alumni issues and serves as president for the system-wide Alumni Association, all things I greatly look forward to.

02.     Why do you do it? The UCs are such incredible engines for their communities—in business and research and cultural contributions too. But above all, they increase each individual’s ability to contribute to their community. And for that reason, it’s important for our UC system to be accessible. I was a first-generation college student, so I know from experience how much it can lift you up and how that can lift up entire communities. It’s important to me that our university system benefits everyone as broadly as it can.

03.     What have you done? My life has been shaped by a deep love for public policy, especially in education. I worked for KPBS after graduation and then, as an independent producer, was greatly impacted by a series I did with the National Science Foundation focused on increasing women and minorities in the sciences. This was in the ’90s, mind you, and that work continues even now, especially in higher education. That’s a big reason why I became involved as a volunteer and philanthropist, and now in governance.

04.     What did you learn here? When I attended UC San Diego, you had to figure so much out by yourself. Being first-gen, I felt like an imposter, and I could really have used help with that. So one thing I learned is that students need support. If you really apply yourself, you can get through, but fear and self-doubt can be incredibly intimidating. That’s why I am so determined to create systems of student support and encourage our alumni to get involved as mentors, speakers or benefactors.

05.     What have you learned since? That it’s a different world. My tuition was, what, $200 a quarter? Now it’s upwards of $10,000 a year. I was very fortunate to benefit from an affordable and incredibly high-quality education, so I feel a responsibility to assist the next generations. And some things haven’t changed—that fear of failure can affect anyone at any time. But it’s important to support college students at this formative point in their lives, because that confidence will last a lifetime and have a profound effect on all of us at community, national and global scales.