UC Links Leadership Transition

In a letter to the community, the GSE and UC Office of the President announced a leadership transition at UC Links.

The letter is below. We also invite you to read our Q&A's with retiring Executive Director Charles Underwood, and Interim Executive Director Mara Welsh Mahmood.

Dear Colleagues, 

We are writing to announce the appointment of Mara Welsh Mahmood as Interim Executive Director for University-Community Links (UC Links). UC Links is a statewide initiative that connects UC faculty and students with underserved P–12 students and their families in innovative, digital, and hands-on learning activities that prepare them for high school success and a college-going path.

Dr. Mahmood (PhD, UC Riverside) is a developmental psychologist whose research has focused on learning in sociocultural context. Starting in 1996, she worked with UC Riverside faculty and local K–12 teachers to develop the UC Links programs there. She went on to work as Director of Site Development and Evaluation at the UC Links Statewide Office from 1998 to 2004. After time away to raise two children and to work in the consulting world with K–12 educators at both the local and state levels, Dr. Mahmood returned to the UC Links Statewide Office in 2018. She will assume the role of Interim Executive Director for UC Links on July 1, 2020, upon the retirement of current UC Links Executive Director, Charles Underwood.

The search for a more permanent director will commence shortly; in the meantime, however, we are grateful for Dr. Mahmood’s expertise and experience and confident that her guidance will support UC Links in its innovative, collaborative and inclusive work until such time as a new Executive Director is selected.

Prudence L. Carter, Dean
E.H. and Mary E. Pardee Professor
Graduate School of Education
University of California, Berkeley

Yvette Gullatt, Vice Provost for Diversity and
Engagement and Interim Vice President
for Student Affairs
University of California, Office of the President


Since 1996, University-Community Links (UC Links) has worked as a collaborative community-university network to sustain quality after-school programs that help prepare young people from diverse, historically marginalized communities for higher learning and lifelong achievement.

UC Links founded its work in part on recommendations from the University of California’s Black Student Eligibility Task Force and the Latino Student Eligibility Task Force, which emphasized working with diverse elementary and middle school students in informal settings and engage them in activities that strengthen multiple literacies and prepare them for a college-going path.

Drawing on the work of UC San Diego’s Fifth Dimension and La Clase Mágica programs, UC Links was historically envisioned as a statewide strategy for ensuring the diversity of the University’s student population in the absence of affirmative action, which had been effectively dismantled by California’s Proposition 209.

In 1996, faculty from seven UC campuses submitted a proposal to then UC President Richard C. Atkinson, who with his staff reviewed the proposal and decided to fund UC Links as a two-year pilot program. After the program had shown initial success in those two years, President Atkinson approved permanent funding for the multi-campus program.

UC Links has been part of the University of California's Student Academic Preparation and Educational Partnerships (SAPEP) programs since 2005. UC Links fulfills a strategic niche in SAPEP -- focusing on the earliest stage of the academic pipeline to prepare diverse K-8 students from communities across California for higher learning. Each year, UC Links implements SAPEP’s program impact and accountability guidelines, as mandated by the State of California and the UC Office of the President.

As a network of programs, UC Links has grown from 14 sites in 1997 to more than 20 sites today. Over that time, UC Links has served more than 50,000 young people in diverse communities throughout California. UC Links also partners with similar collaborative programs in other states (Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Utah) and nations (Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Japan, Spain, and Uganda), sharing ideas and research findings about learning strategies and resources as an international community of practice.


UC Links brings together university and community partners in a network of after-school programs for preschool through 12th grade (P-12) students from historically marginalized communities throughout California. UC Links' primary mission is to prepare diverse P-8 young people academically and socially for success in high school and college, while improving undergraduate education through practicum academic coursework connecting educational theories with real-world experience in local communities.

To accomplish this dual mission, UC Links faculty from various academic disciplines teach university courses that place undergraduate and graduate students in practicum field training experiences in local community-based, in-school and after-school sites. The university students guide the P-12 students in informal collaborative learning activities designed to develop skills such as, reading, writing, and oral fluency; digital literacies; critical thinking; collaborative behavior; and college-going identities.

UC Links programs provide young people from historically marginalized communities with access to a variety of digital and hands-on educational resources that enable them to learn about their communities and the larger world they live in, while sharing their own histories, experiences, and personal reflections with peers across the international UC Links network. While UC Links has long made face-to-face connections with local youth, it has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by working closely with teachers and community leaders to develop a wide range of learning activities, linking undergraduates with children and their families through both digital means and hands-on tool kits (backpacks with instructions and resources for home learning activities). In this way, University-Community Links continues its sustained collaborative work with local communities and schools throughout California and beyond.

In addition to the evaluative research on participants’ emerging multiple literacies and critical thinking, UC Links faculty conduct research in a variety of areas, including: the productive use of digital media; effective maker activities and other pedagogical strategies; young people’s technology use and identity development; and inter-institutional collaborative processes, and other issues relevant to learning in and out of school. 



Executive Director, UC Links (1996-2020)

Associate Director, UC Links (2018-2020)
Interim Executive Director, UC Links (July 2020)