Berkeley, CA — In a celebration of excellence and dedication, we are thrilled to announce that Gia White (she/her), Administrative Director at UC Berkeley’s Global, International, and Area Studies and the Institute of European Studies, has been honored with the esteemed 2024 Walter A. Robinson Excellence in Service Award at the upcoming University of California’s Black Administrators’ Council (UCBAC) conference in early February 2024. This systemwide award recognizes individuals who, like Walter A. Robinson, have demonstrated consistent servant-leadership and a dedication to uplifting African American students, staff, or faculty with the UC system.
Gia’s dedication and invaluable contributions as an alumna, staff member, and storyteller has made quite the impact on the UC Berkeley campus. "Gia White is an exceptional colleague, deeply knowledgeable of the UC Berkeley campus and ‘North Star’ for countless faculty, students, staff, diplomats, visiting scholars and community members. All of her colleagues at the Global, International and Area Studies (GIAS) Research Hub as well as the Institute of European Studies are proud of her and very glad to see her achievements recognized by the UC Office of the President with this prestigious award," shares Dr. Akasemi Newsome, Associate Director, Global, International and Area Studies/Institute of European Studies
Takiyah Jackson, Director of the African American Student Development Office, Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center, and African American Thriving Initiatives adds, "Gia's contributions to Black Lives at Cal have truly led to transformation on our campus. Because of Gia and her leadership with Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) students, we now have a Black History at Cal tour as well as a podcast tour that anyone can download to take the Black History tour of our campus. The tour that she leads, not only highlights the Black History at Cal, but it also exposes areas that we need to improve as a campus when we look at how we celebrate the contributions of Black people to our campus. We want to make sure that Gia's contributions and legacy will forever be celebrated on our campus and beyond."
"Gia has brilliantly highlighted the legacies of our Black community on campus, showcasing the power of her efforts and emphasizing the ongoing work needed to ensure their visibility and recognition," shares UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Dania Matos.
Here, we connect with Gia about the recognition.
How does it feel to receive this award, and what does it mean to you personally and professionally?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to express how I feel about receiving this award. This is quite an honor for me personally and professionally. It is very humbling and I am so appreciative of the recognition. Walter A. Robinson was an amazing leader, mentor, role model, and an inspiration to so many. Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting him. However, after reading about his incredible legacy here at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, I can understand why he is so admired. I only hope that I have made a fraction of the contributions that he achieved in his career. This comes at a time in my career where I feel very connected to the campus community and I want to make meaningful and lasting contributions. I think my many years as a staff member, coupled with my time as a Berkeley undergrad of the 1980’s, allowed me to utilize my institutional memory and experience in an impactful way. I am very grateful for that and this award means so much to me.
Can you share some insights into the projects or initiatives that led to this recognition?
I believe that the project that led to this recognition was my research on the lives of the first African American students to attend UC Berkeley and ultimately the creation of the Black History campus tour. It all happened very organically. I have been a volunteer docent at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland for several years now. I give the Black History tour there every year. In doing my research for that tour, I discovered that some of the first African American students to attend UC Berkeley in its earliest days are interred there. I found it very interesting that my first exposure to their life stories was not through my deep connection to UC Berkeley, but as a docent at the cemetery. This prompted me to do more research which led to my participation in the Black Lives at Cal (BLAC) project and the Black History campus tour coming to fruition.
How has collaboration and teamwork played a role in your achievements?
Collaboration and teamwork have been tantamount to my success! Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues in my role as Administrative Director in Global, International and Area Studies (GIAS) and the Institute of European Studies (IES). The level of support I have received as a staff member in these organizations allowed me to branch out into other aspects of my campus career. In terms of the Black History campus tour, the BLAC team has been incredible. Founded by Dr. Takiyah Jackson, BLAC is just a wonderful collaboration between staff, faculty and students who care deeply about the Black experience on campus and seek to research, archive and celebrate the rich history here. I also received a grant from the Black Studies Collaboratory (within the department of African American Studies and African Diaspora Studies) to support the development of the Black History Tour. I also received unwavering moral support from the Black Staff and Faculty Organization (BSFO), as well as key Berkeley Library staff members, who created a research guide based on the tour. I am very grateful for this and it gives me such pleasure to really share this award with all of them.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals in your role, considering this recognition?
I aspire to keep working with my colleagues at Berkeley across the many organizations that exist on campus and beyond. I am very passionate about the work that I do with the Black Lives at Cal project. My most immediate goal is to ensure that the Black History Campus Tour is integrated into campus life for generations to come.
Any advice for colleagues aspiring to make a significant impact in their roles?
Never underestimate the unique perspective and experience that you bring to your work.
It is valuable and you really can make a difference.