Skip to main content

Competitive Edge

The Graduate Division offers Competitive Edge as a summer transition program for selected incoming graduate students. This six week program is designed to give selected graduate students an opportunity to begin research prior to the start of their graduate program and to acclimate to the campus environment. Competitive Edge is motivated by the campus's commitment to be fully inclusive and supportive of all students, and by the belief that a diverse graduate student body enhances the quality of the educational experience for all students. This year's program took place virtually from August 3 through September 11, 2020.



  • Advanced introduction to UC San Diego faculty
  • Advanced introduction to key UC San Diego campus resources
  • Early move-in to graduate campus housing
  • Acquisition of critical writing, teaching, and communication skills through workshops and lectures
  • Early mentorship from UC San Diego faculty and peer mentors
  • A community-like experience with support from a peer cohort and the UC San Diego Graduate Division
  • Summer stipend of $4,000


  • Priority is first given to students receiving a Graduate Division Diversity Fellowship (San Diego and Cota Robles, SEED, STARS, Tribal Membership Initiative)
  • Departments may sponsor participation into this program for students who did not receive a Graduate Division Diversity Fellowship. Participants do not directly apply to the Competitive Edge program. 
  • All participants must be doctoral or MFA students entering their first year of graduate study at UC San Diego.
  • Student must be a US citizen, Permanent Resident, or AB540 eligible.


Participants must commit to a full-time, six week summer program prior to their enrollment as a doctoral or MFA student at UC San Diego. Commitment includes 30-40 hours of research per week, along with readiness workshops, lectures, and other preparatory events.

Program Content

In addition to the research experience, participants are required to attend workshops to acclimate them to the campus environment. Workshop facilitators are members of the UC San Diego community and serve as faculty, staff or continuing graduate students in various academic fields. In addition to the workshops, participants are expected to attend an orientation at the beginning and a luncheon at the conclusion of the program.

Summer Faculty Mentorship

Each Competitive Edge student is expected to work with a summer faculty mentor from their respective departments. The faculty mentor will provide guidance on a research project, new or existing. The project does not have to be completed during the 6-week program, which allows the scope of the project to span the entirety of the summer quarter, through the Fall quarter, or beyond.

At minimum, meetings between Competitive Edge Fellows and their respective mentors should occur every other week. Ultimately, this depends on the nature of the project, the amount of oversight each student requires, and the level of mentorship the faculty member is able to provide.

In addition to research, the faculty mentor can provide an introduction and guidance to the department, as well as any tips on how to make the most of the summer, first quarter, and first year of their graduate experience.

2020 Fellows

2019 Fellows

 Kelechi Agwuncha

Kelechi Agwuncha                                                            MFA Student, Visual Arts

 Sara Almalla

Sara Almalla                                                                      PhD Student, Ethnic Studies

 Anthony Anderson

Anthony Anderson                                                            PhD Student, Political Science

 Mia Borzello

Mia Borzello                                                                      PhD Student, Cognitive Science

 Marvic Carrillo Terrazas

Marvic Carrillo Terrazas                                                    PhD Student, Biomedical Sciences

 Matthew Carter

Matthew Carter                                                                  PhD Student, Linguistics

 Ashley Cronk

Ashley Cronk                                                                      PhD Student, Materials Science

 Nathaniel James

Nathaniel James                                                                PhD Student, Anthropology

 Reed Kendall

Reed Kendall                                                                      PhD Student, Education

 Shai Nielson

Shai Nielson                                                                      PhD Student, Linguistics

 Joseph Riley

Joseph Riley                                                                      MFA Student, Art History

 Chiaki Santiago

Chiaki Santiago                                                                  PhD Student, Neuroscience

Melonie Vaughn

Melonie Vaughn                                                                PhD Student, Neuroscience

 Hannah White

Hannah White                                                                    PhD Student, Education

2018 Fellows

 David Cadena

David Ochoa Cadena                                                   PhD Student, Bioengineering

 Thien Hoang Doan

Thien Hoang Doan                                                      MFA Student, Visual Arts

 Jose Armando Fernandez Guerrero

Jose Armando Fernandez Guerrero                           PhD Student, Linguistics

 Jennifer Ellen Fromm

Jennifer Ellen Fromm                                                  PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering

 Incamu Ray Huaute

Incamu Ray Huaute                                                     PhD Student, Linguistics

 Sanaa Sameena Khan

Sanaa Sameena Khan                                                 PhD Student, Education

 Julian Gonzalo Kosacki

Julian Gonzalo Kosacki                                               PhD Student, Bioengineering

 Rochelle Alexia McFee

Rochelle Alexia McFee                                                PhD Student, Ethnic Studies

 Taylor Sherisse McKie

Taylor Sherisse McKie                                                 PhD Student, Oceanography

 Monica Newton Molgaard

Monica Newton Molgaard                                           PhD Student, Education

 Lauren Ann-Ru Oey

Lauren Ann-Ru Oey                                                      PhD Student, Psychology

 Angel Payan

Angel Payan                                                                  PhD Student, Chemistry

 Meghan J Rossi

Meghan J Rossi                                                            PhD Student, Neuroscience

 Carlos Anthony Vasquez

Carlos Anthony Vasquez                                            PhD Student, Chemistry

Please direct inquiries about this program to: