Planting Seeds of Educational Opportunity

Assoc. Director of Graduate Admissions Keith Flowers Jr. ’19 reflects on journey which positioned him to aid young scholars.
By Elias Almarez-Herrera ’23 |

Before joining the UCR School of Business’ recruitment and admissions team or serving as its coordinator for the annual University of California (UC) effort to diversify graduate business programs, Keith Flowers Jr. was simply a local resident of the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan community. 

"I grew up in Fontana and currently reside in Moreno Valley," he says. "My family and home are based in the Inland Empire. This area is up-and-coming in terms of the economy. It provides a range of opportunities for businesses to thrive. It's not Los Angeles and I love that for all the right reasons." 

While studying sociology at UC Berkeley, Flowers Jr. worked closely with nonprofit organizations in the local region. He helped to prepare students within the community for the competitive nature of college applications. 

"The goal was to provide Black, Latino, and Native American students with the information to become a strong candidate to get into UC Berkeley," he says. "I'm passionate about helping students understand their journey." 

"Where I'm from, being admitted into a UC school is equated to getting a full scholarship, which was not the case for me,” Flowers Jr. says. "Throughout my undergraduate and graduate experiences, I worked full time and took evening courses. It's a dynamic I had gotten used to. I'm the first in my family to get a degree of any kind.” 

In order to fully realize his potential to aid a broader group of young scholars, he set his sights on earning an MBA at UCR’s A. Gary Anderson School of Management (AGSM). Over the course of his graduate program, Flowers Jr. began to establish a network of like-minded faculty and classmates within AGSM. He emphasizes the familial bond that was created which led to his efforts to increase the visibility of marginalized communities across UC business schools. 

"Even though UCR has maintained a positive trajectory for social mobility and diversity across its admitted students, there is always room to improve on systemwide shortcomings," he says. 

The Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML) was founded in 2012, and offers an immersive business and career leadership experience for undergraduate students currently enrolled in an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) or HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) and is sponsored by the six University of California campuses with business schools. Following a format which rotates host location yearly, each of the campuses, Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego, prepare a 12-day program for 50 students. 

For Flowers Jr., co-coordinating the SIEML program is an integral part of his advocacy for proportional representation. 


9th Annual SIEML conference, hosted in a virtual format by UCR Business
The 2021 SIEML program was hosted remotely by UCR Business. Keith Flowers Jr., top row, second from the left is the UCR Business program coordinator.


"I've been the UCR campus coordinator for the past three years," he says. "It's a yearlong process: Each coordinator on their respective campus has to secure employer sponsorships for industry engagement and develop workshops for financial literacy among other logistical planning efforts. The UC campuses collaborate brilliantly. In 2021 UCR, SIEML was hosted remotely by UCR Business due to the pandemic; the six business schools worked together to provide amazing programming so participants would have the best possible experience." 

"It stuck out to me that students who are considering top ranked schools like Harvard and Stanford are just as interested in UC business schools after seeing firsthand the resources we have to offer," he says. "We've seen a considerable increase in applications to UCR's business programs—there is sense of energy and growth here—and the numbers show no signs of slowing down." 

Beyond the numbers and statistics, Flowers Jr. never forgets to tend to the root of each students' needs. "It is extremely important that students understand the value of telling their story, detailing where they come from. Much of the work I do is to help students develop personal statements," he says. "Among those I've mentored, I’ve noticed the difficulty they have in bragging about their accomplishments or describing the strength it took to triumph over adversity. Some may view it as telling a sob story, but [admissions officers] are invested in the lessons you may have learned from those experiences."


Read about SIEML 2021, hosted by UCR Business:

View SIEML 2021 Story