ScholarMatch’s Board Chair Karen Grace-Baker honored with UCLA Extension’s Distinguished Instructor Award

3 min readAug 24, 2022

We’re pleased to announce that our Board Chair, college coach, and longtime supporter Karen Grace-Baker was recently awarded the UCLA Extension’s Distinguished Instructor award. A proud first-generation college graduate herself, Karen holds the unique distinction of being the first African American and first woman Board Chair of ScholarMatch.

While Karen navigated her way as the first in her family to attend college and graduate school, she wanted to ensure that she did not forget where she came from when she had the chance to give back to other first-generation students.

“As Board Chair, I have the opportunity to lead an organization that serves and understands the challenges (and opportunities) that being a first-generation student encompasses and the unique contributions and perspectives that they bring to this world.

In my other role as an instructor at UCLA Extension, I have the opportunity to work with future college counselors and independent educational consultants to ensure that all students receive valuable college admissions knowledge from well-informed counselors. I love teaching and sharing knowledge with others.”

When Karen heard about this award, she joked that she couldn’t help but calculate her chances of “getting in.” “I was excited and honored to receive the Distinguished Instructor award as one of 16 out of 2,000 instructors at UCLA Extension. If I translate that to the field of college admissions, that would be an ‘admissions rate of 1%’, so I consider myself amongst the fortunate ones to be recognized for doing something that I thoroughly enjoy.

The UCLA College Counseling Certificate program is one of the oldest programs in the country. Having the privilege of teaching and training future college counselors, advisors, educational consultants, and nonprofit leaders excites and motivates me to do my best. These are UCLA-trained leaders who will assist and advise students (many like me when I started my journey) to help them realize the possibility of attending college.”

“Karen is a force in the field. She pushes us and makes no apologies.”
– Student evaluation feedback, Summer Quarter 2021

Jennifer Mandel, Program Director and instructor in UCLA Extension’s College Counseling certificate program, said in her nomination, “I chose to include the above quote from one of her student evaluations to demonstrate what a powerful presence she has among her students and the positive impact she has as an instructor in the College Counseling Certificate. Karen’s dedication in going above and beyond to help all student populations access the college admissions process is evident in both her work with teenage students and in her work with Extension students.”

Karen added, “I was especially excited to receive this award because higher education changed my life as a first-generation, low-income student from a family of seven children. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college and graduate school, and it helped my siblings realize that college was a possibility. This is why I enjoy serving ScholarMatch as the Chair of the Board of Directors and continue serving as a volunteer coach.”

Congratulations on this much-deserved recognition, Karen! Cheers to many more years under your leadership.

If Karen’s commitment to our students inspired you, head over to our website to learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference in students’ lives.




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