The Academic Community of Excellence (ACE) began its first year at the Loyola Marymount University campus in fall 2004. The program was initially funded by the James Irvine Foundation to support LMU’s progressive Linking the Intercultural Campus diversity initiative. This initiative included the creation of the ACE program, which was designed to improve underrepresented student retention, graduation, and preparation for graduate and professional programs. The mission of the initiative emanated from the Jesuit tradition of creating men and women for others, along with providing support for historically underserved populations.

By 2010, the ACE program was institutionalized and operated as a strategic initiative of the the vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Today, its goal includes preparing underrepresented scholars to access and thrive in master’s and doctoral programs. Since ACE’s establishment, the program has instituted cooperative research experiences, research showcases, an alumni mentor program, sponsored trips to regional and national conferences, a mentor program with Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science, and other opportunities. Also, the program will launch an undergraduate academic journal in 2020.

ACE scholars and alumni also continue to excel educationally. Fifty-six percent of alumni have enrolled in or completed programs at over 45 master’s and doctoral-granting institutions. Also, students have secured prestigious awards and opportunities such as the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, membership in Phi Beta Kappa, California Senate Fellows Program, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, Gilman Scholarship, Teach For America, LMU Ignatian Award, and Presidential Citation.

In terms of its broad impact, the ACE program has helped to elevate the importance and attainability of a postgraduate degree for diverse populations. ACE has educated, equipped, and empowered students along the path to graduate studies and career success. Moreover, ACE is contributing to a national movement to increase access and diversity in graduate and professional education.