The recipients of the new Dean’s Leadership Circle (DLC) Grant Initiative will use the funds to create programs to raise donations for local charities, encourage on-campus equity and teach students about the basics of financial literacy.

Winners of New Dean’s Leadership Circle Grant Initiative Advocate for Equity, Financial Literacy and Charity

April 19, 2022 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business

A new funding opportunity from the Dean’s Leadership Circle (DLC) provides organizations at The UCI Paul Merage School of Business with the means to help undergraduate and graduate students. 

A few months after the DLC Grant Initiative launched in August 2021, applicants pitched their programs in order to receive funding. In December, a total of $20,000 was awarded to seven organizations that applied for the grant. These include the Merage School Latinx Initiative, Merage Undergraduate Student Association, Center for Investment and Wealth Management, Human Resources Management Association, Black Management Association, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics and Challenge for Charity.   

Ramin Mousavi, a DLC board member and chief executive of CathWorks, said that the board wants the organizations that apply for the grant to be focused on talent and career development and to have a relationship with the business and local community.  

“Of the three key criteria that we looked at, the first was how was the funding going to be used,” Mousavi said. “The second was, we looked at things that could have a longer term impact rather than a one-and-done. The last was the energy and passion of those who were putting the proposal together and how compelling was the way they were communicating it.”  

Mousavi said the grant was “super successful” and will continue to be offered. The 2022 DLC Grant Initiative application portal opened on April 1, closed on April 15 and the pitch event will be held on May 3. 

Here’s an overview of the winners from the inaugural round of the DLC Grant Initiative: 

Working to support the Latinx community 

The Merage School Latinx Initiative (LXi) aims to build awareness about the Latinx business community and support the Latinx population in Southern California through developing engaging programs.   

“We want to create a sense of community within the Orange County area and beyond to connect and bring together a community that supports Latinx and Hispanic efforts,” said Natalia Sanchez, who’s on the initiative’s team.  

The group also seeks to create a safe place for incoming freshmen who are members of the Latinx community. It also creates an opportunity for these students to get to know the key stakeholders in the community and how they can help them, Sanchez said.  

The center also has programs to aid with its mission. Later this year, the initiative will launch a mentor program to benefit current students. The group also is putting together a “lunch and learn,” an event it holds each quarter so that students can hear from key speakers about a variety of topics.  

“It’s another great way of bringing in the community and another opportunity to network,” Sanchez said.  

The initiative will be devoting its DLC grant funds for a scholarship. Sanchez said being able to offer a scholarship to Latinx students is important because many don’t have the same resources as other students. The initiative will be giving out three $1,000 scholarships to current master’s students.  

“A lot of them have part-time jobs while they go to school and I think it really helped to alleviate a lot of stress for them,” Sanchez said of the scholarship.  

Spreading financial literacy  

The Center for Investment and Wealth Management’s mission is to encourage financial literacy education for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.  

Adriana Lucas, associate director of the center, said that the group accomplishes this goal by providing programs for undergraduate, graduate and high school students. The programs are particularly beneficial for people from underserved communities, who tend to be left on their own to figure out the ins and outs of financing through combing through Google, Lucas said.  

The center will be specifically devoting the DLC grant funds to its Personal FinAnts program, where students can learn the basics of financial literacy through online modules.  

“The cool thing is that we don't exclusively offer it to Merage School students,” Lucas said. “We've opened it campus-wide. Starting in the next year, anybody that has financial aid will be offered that course as part of their package.” 

Raising money for local charities 

Challenge for Charity, which is the Merage School’s chapter of a larger nonprofit, has a mission to support local charities through volunteering and providing fundraising opportunities for students. The school’s chapter works with Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, the Special Olympics and Junior Achievement, which teaches financial literacy to middle school and high school students.  

Throughout the year, the group hosts various events where students from the Merage School engage in fundraising for these charities. So far this year, the group has raised more than $4,600. It has also hosted seven events and has plans for another five during the spring quarter.  

Kelsey Van Hook MBA ’22 of Challenge for Charity said that the group will be using the DLC grant money for gift baskets that could be auctioned off at fundraising events. That money will be donated to the charities.  

The work is deeply meaningful for the people who run Challenge for Charity. 

Caitlin Hennessy MBA ’22, who also works with the organization, said that it’s very important work to support the core charities.  

“We are a public face of the Merage School in the local philanthropy space, so that's very impactful,” Hennessy said. “We bring together students from the different graduate programs within Merage, so there's networking. Then on top of all that, we provide these leadership, development and nonprofit management skills for the students who participate in our board. So, it means a lot to me, how many ways Challenge for Charity can have an impact andall of these bring a lot of value to the School.” 

Working towards equity and empowering students 

In an effort to support Black voices in business, the Black Management Association supports Black students and alumni through providing events, networking, professional development and leadership opportunities.  

“I want the BMA to provide Black students at the Merage School an opportunity to experience a sense of belonging and a community that supports their educational and professional goals for years to come,” Professor and faculty advisor Tonya Bradford said in a prior interview. “When students experience world-class leadership and mentorship, they can do the same for future Anteaters and also within the communities they join as they develop their careers.” 

Similarly, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics seeks empowerment and equity for members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community.   

The two other groups that received grants, the Human Resources Management Association and Merage Undergraduate Student Association, seek to educate young professionals on the ins and outs of the human resources industry and govern the student body and create programs and other services to get students involved on campus.  

To learn more about the Dean’s Leadership Circle Grant Initiative or to apply, visit