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Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate

Thurgood Marshall College

Thurgood Marshall College

Thurgood Marshall College

Mission & Philosophy

At Thurgood Marshall College we are dedicated to helping students from all majors become engaged citizens who are committed to serving society.  Marshall students understand that their professional careers will take place in a larger societal context determined by complex histories and social struggles, and that they will have a hand in shaping the future.

Our core academic offerings prepare students to develop a deep analysis of the diversity of lived experiences in the United States; the institutions and movements through which justice  has been advanced; and the culture—music, art, literature, and science—through which people represent and comprehend U.S. society and the world.

The Marshall College experience challenges students through engagement inside and outside of the classroom. During the course of their UC San Diego careers, students at Marshall College can expect to be equipped to:

Pursue academic success by actively questioning, researching, and analyzing information and applying what is learned to make connections between their academic and civic lives.

Build leadership skills by thinking critically and intentionally to become effective decision makers and communicators.

Develop a lifestyle that fosters well-being and achieves a balance of intellectual, physical, occupational, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial goals.

Develop cultural and social competency by understanding and respecting similarities and differences among the individuals that make up their diverse communities.

Understand the philosophy and practices of public service, and applying these skills to social and civic engagement.

Educational Philosophy

The educational philosophy of Marshall College is guided by the belief that regardless of a student’s major, the college experience must include an understanding of one’s role in society. The distinctive core sequence, which serves as the centerpiece of the College’s general education requirements, emphasizes a critical examination of American society. This three-quarter sequence, “Dimensions of Culture—Diversity, Justice, and Imagination (DOC),” challenges students to develop a historically grounded understanding of the diverse experiences that have shaped U.S. society. DOC is designed to be an interdisciplinary curriculum that explores the promise of the nation’s founding ideals juxtaposed to collective struggles to realize those ideals for all communities.  Other general-education requirements include courses in mathematics, physical and biological sciences, humanities, and the arts.

Wishing to uphold the principles set forth by the students and faculty who created the college in 1970, all Marshall students are encouraged to develop their skills as professionals and as engaged citizens.  We believe that career success and social responsibility are mutually compatible and essential. In this regard, our students earn academic credit for participating in the Partners-at-Learning Program (PAL) by taking courses that train and place them as tutors and mentors in local elementary schools and high schools: Gompers Preparatory Academy and in Southeast San Diego, and the on-campus UCSD Preuss School.

Further underpinning the educational philosophy of Marshall College is the belief that the best preparation for a complex, interdependent, and rapidly changing world is a diverse course of study, complemented by in-depth study in a major of the student’s choice. This educational approach has several advantages:

  1. It guarantees a basic understanding of the principal branches of knowledge: humanities and arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and quantitative analysis.
  2. It enables students with specific goals to work in their chosen field of study as first-year students.
  3. It allows students who have not decided on a major to sample an array of potential majors while simultaneously satisfying the general education requirements of the college.


University of California, San Diego
Thurgood Marshall College
9500 Gilman Drive Dept. 0509
La Jolla, CA 92093-0509

A Short History of Thurgood Marshall College

Thurgood Marshall College 4

Dedication of Thurgood Marshall College, UC San Diego in 1993
William McGill, Wadie Deddeh, Alex Wong,
James Hill, Carlos Blanco, Jack Peltason

Thurgood Marshall College 4

Dedication of Thurgood Marshall Bust, UC San Diego in 1993
Valette Finley , Provost Cecil Lytle,
Sculptor Manuelita Brown

The Thought of a “College III”

UCSD began enrolling undergraduates in the fall of 1964. The University was to be modeled after the College System of Oxford and Cambridge in Great Britain. At that time there were two undergraduate colleges, Revelle and Muir.
In 1965 the University began planning for a third college. In November of 1965 the College III Preliminary Planning Committee released its suggestion bout what the nature of the new college should be. They suggested that College III be focused on the study of history and its theory, because, while it was strong in humanities, history also explores the sciences, arts, and social science. College III would be the focused on liberal arts, an area missing on the campus.
The curriculum would be interdisciplinary and cover a broad range of subjects. Clio, the Greek muse of history, was the suggested name. In 1966, hancellor John Galbraith created a second College III planning committee. By 1967 UC Berkeley History Professor Armin Rappaport was appointed provost and the Planning committee was changed to be composed of College III provisional faculty. At this time, the committee decided simply to refer to the college as Third College.

Faculty Support in the Coalition

Literature professor Carlos Blanco was the faculty advisor for the Mexican American Youth Association (MAYA). MAYA was mostly a social organization, but was starting to shift to be a more progressive, politically active organization. They soon changed their name to the more militant Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA).
When the focus of the college shifted to honor the ideals of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after his assassination, Provisional Provost Armin Rappaport approached MAYA and the BSC to get their insights on what the ethnic element of the college should look like. BSC approached MAYA and suggested that they form a coalition and fight for more than just an ethnic element within the traditional college structure. The Lumumba-Zapata Coalition was formed.
Chemist Joseph Watson was the faculty advisor for the Black Student Council (BSC). The BSC already had a presence on campus and was active in initiating the idea of an African-American Studies Program, with Watson’s help, the same year that they were approached by Rappaport about Third College. In July of 1970, Watson became the college’s first official Provost. He served in that post until 1981.

Students Rally Around the Idea of a New Type of College

The coalition, with the help of supportive faculty members like William Frazer, Carlos Blanco, Joseph Watson, and Herbert Marcuse, held rallies to show how much support the idea of Third College really had.
Students flooded Revelle Plaza, then the center of campus, to hear enthusiastic student leaders of the movement speak. Angela Davis, a well-known activist, was a grad student at the time, and was an instrumental leader and igniter of support.

The Students Take Action… and Are Victorious

Twenty-eight Students from the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition were allowed into the hall where the Academic Senate was meeting, in order to represent their plan. Many of the faculty had been involved in crafting the plan and many more were open to the ideas the coalition was presenting. However, the politics of the Academic Senate, concerns over the radical nature of the plan, and resistance from certain departments and ndividual faculty members slowed the process.
Distrust began to grow among the students, as did doubts that the plan would ever be approved.Although the plan was approved in theory on May 6, 1969, the Senate still needed to decide on a concrete plan for the college to actually come into existence. As tension grew, and the process once again came to a halt, students walked out of the Senate in protest, and broke into and occupied the Registrar’s Office. During the ninety minutes that students were occupying the Registrar’s Office, Sylvio Varon, a sympathetic faculty member offered a resolution that laid out a plan for bringing Third College into existence the way the students envisioned it. The resolution passed 94-5-7 and the students had their college.

Lumumba-Zapata Coalition Demands
  • Academic Focus:Theory and practice of revolutions; economic systems; science and technology; health sciences and public health;
    urban and rural development; communications arts; foreign languages; cultural heritage; white studies.
  • Admissions:
    35% Black, 35% Brown; control of admissions held by a committee of minority students; UC requirements not binding.
  • Governance:
    Board of Directors, made up of three students, two faculty, and the provost. The provost acts as the administrative head of the college, but is not the chair of the Board. The Board had final authority over the choice of the provost, and also has the authority to recall the provost. The Board would also recommend to departments faculty to hire, and would have the power to offer available openings in college faculty to departments.
  • Architecture:
    Mexican or African style; planning and construction from the minority community; bonds held by minority financial institutions
  • Community Participation:
    Recruitment of students in the community by students and other members of the college.

Plans Change for Third

On April 4, 1968 plans for the focus of Third College shifted abruptly. Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The provisional faculty of Third College hurriedly wrote a proposal to create a college in King’s honor. The proposal included the creation of different committees to map out this college. One would recruit disadvantaged students, one would be a community action committee that would bring seminars to the city, tutors to children who needed them, and other community outreach; and one would be a human relations committee that would promote the full integration of majority and minority students.
In the proposal, author Dan Lindsley passionately asserted, “The assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis on April 4 is one of the bitter rewards we reap from our apathetic acceptance of social injustice and racism in our society.” He suggested that Third College be named Martin Luther King College. Provost Rappaport accepted the faculty’s proposal, except the name, which he argued would be better put off “until such time as our program does his name justice and honor.” Plans for Third College were now focused on honoring Martin Luther King.

Third College Academic Plan: What Third Really Looked Like in the Fall of 1970

New Departments: Third World Studies, Urban and Rural Development (Urban Studies and Planning), Health Science, Communication Arts Communication), Asian and Pacific Islander Studies
Planned Departments:
Literature Sciences, Pre-law, Environmental Design and Engineering

  • Requirements:
    Third World Studies, 12 units; Urban and Rural Studies, 12 units; Communication Arts, 12 units; Science and
    Technology, 16 units
  • Admissions:
    seven year experiment in the following admissions formula: General Admissions Average of 3.0 or higher (based on GPA or SAT Score); BMPA (Background, Motivation, and Persistence Average), gathered through interviews; letters of reference
  • Governance:
    Board of Directors, made up of three students, three faculty who were advisory to the provost Architecture: design not officially indicated; minority contractors and construction preferred; residence halls were planned to include undergraduate and graduate students, married students, and faculty
  • Community Participation:
    recruitment of minority students by students and faculty; Teacher Education Program; counseling and tutoring

Controversy Over a Name

Although many of the aspects of the Lumumba-Zapata Plan were accepted and implemented, the proposed name – Lumumba-Zapata College – was never approved. The college continued being called Third College until 1993.
During those twenty-three nameless years, students became attached to Third. It came to represent their struggle, their values, their community. In 1993, when it was proposed to name the college after Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had recently passed away, students actually protested naming the college anything at all after shaping their identity around Third. While it is surprising that students would protest naming the college after someone as worthy of being our namesake as Justice Marshall, students were concerned that their history would somehow be lost along with the name Third. We are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, and have since built a vision for the future of Thurgood Marshall College.

The Groundbreaking, 1974: Third College becomes a physical presence on the campus

Ground was broken on the buildings of the college in 1974. After four years of existence, the college, the struggle, and what they stood for, finally had a place to call home. One of the elements of the Lumumba-Zapata plan was that the architecture of the college be influenced by African and Mexican Architecture, which is still reflected today in the Upper and Lower

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

thurgood-marshall-robes Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. His father instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law. His father’s father had been a slave. After graduating from high school in 1925, Marshall attended Lincoln University, a historically black university in Chester Pennsylvania. In 1930, after completing his undergraduate education, he applied to the University of Maryland Law School, but was denied because he was black. This was a very poignant event in the life of Thurgood Marshall, as is evidenced by his life’s work. His first major court case – and victory – was suing the University of Maryland for not admitting a student because he was black.
In 1940, Marshall became the Chief Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His very successful career in law is marked by the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which was decided by the Supreme Court, and which overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Marshall’s success in overturning Plessy v. Ferguson, as opposed to the many others who tried, was because he rejected the premise of the doctrine of “separate but equal” entirely and argued that separate is inherently unequal.
In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court, the first black person to hold the position. During his tenure on the Supreme Court he was hailed for his defense of civil rights and for giving a voice to the voiceless.