Janet Fisher ’76 thought she was going to “the other place,” the one east of the 15, when she and her father drove down to San Diego from Los Angeles for a weekend event for Black applicants. But as soon as she saw the ocean view, she knew UC San Diego was where she belonged. And four years later, when she walked across Revelle Plaza for her graduation, she knew she had made the right decision.
But the road to graduation wasn’t always smooth for Janet. “My freshman year was a nightmare. I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I came here and I sat in classes where it was like they were speaking Greek to me,” Janet says. “But I was the type of person who wasn’t going to give up because my parents did a lot to make sure I could attend UC San Diego, and I could not let their investment in me go to waste. I had to figure it out.”
And that experience inspired Janet to make sure current and future students don’t have the same struggles. As a member of the UC San Diego Alumni Association and the Black Alumni Council, she is determined to help a new generation of Black students acquire the study habits, guidance, and advice they need to graduate. It is important to Janet that UC San Diego continues to follow through on its promise of inclusivity—not just in terms of recruiting more Black students, but retaining them and making sure they graduate on time.
Through networking and mentorship, Janet is an integral part of the culture of Black success on campus. In her role as committee chair of the UC San Diego Black Alumni Scholarship Foundation Mentorship Program, Janet matches students with mentors who can direct them to resources on campus, provide advice, and help ensure they have a good on-campus experience. She also mentors students, whom she refers to affectionately as her “kids.” Janet has enjoyed seeing them succeed. She recently attended Founders Day, and brought one of her mentees as a guest; he came out of the event with an offer for a summer internship. And she is seeing her kids encourage one another’s success. One student studied abroad in Italy and is encouraging other Black scholars to participate. Another mentee is a tutor at the Teaching + Learning Commons.
“They all help each other,” Janet says. “And it is fantastic to see them take advantage of the opportunities we’ve given them and run with them. It shows that we are developing a self-sustaining network and culture of Black support on campus.”
She hopes that other alumni, especially Black alumni, return to campus to see how things have changed—for the university as a whole and for Black students and faculty in particular. Although the community is still a small one, UC San Diego is taking steps to help it grow, in part through the UC San Diego Black Academic Excellence Initiative—recruiting more Black students and faculty members, and building and strengthening resources for them. And alumni engagement can help develop even more student support and success programs, and solidify UC San Diego’s reputation as a world-class institution.
Her gift—in the form of the residual from the sale of her house—will support the William C. and Anita Fisher Scholarship fund, which is named for Janet’s parents. This scholarship to benefit Black students is a critical piece of her efforts to increase Black presence on campus and ensure it receives lasting support, one inspired by her parents’ dedication to their community as youth sports coaches, Girl Scout Troop leaders, and church volunteers.
“My parents helped me, they inspired me, they loved me,” Janet says. “Why not create something in their name to help Black kids have the same opportunity they gave me to succeed? I want to put that money where it can do some good.”
Together with other gifts to support Black students in arts and humanities, engineering, mathematics, and science, and Janet’s mentoring and alumni outreach efforts, she aspires to create a tradition of Black excellence at UC San Diego. And to Janet, the future is bright with possibility.
“My mentees are my legacy,” Janet says. “I found my Blackness at UC San Diego. I found myself, as a person, as a Black woman. I grew up here. I really do love the opportunity UC San Diego gave me to succeed, and the reward is seeing a new generation of students do the same.”