When Jaida Day arrived at UC San Diego to begin her undergraduate studies, she found a welcoming campus environment, peers and faculty to push her academically, beautiful beaches and opportunities to get involved in student organizations. But she also found there was something missing.
“I grew up in Los Angeles where I could go down the street and find the products I need for my hair and my skin, things of that sort, because there are other people who look like me in that area,” said Day. “But coming to La Jolla, I realized the beauty supply stores, the CVS, even the markets on campus, they don’t have what I need for my hair and skin.”
Her options? Drive 30 minutes to the closest beauty supply that carried the items she needed; order her hygiene necessities online and have them shipped; or stock up at home during breaks and bring the products back to campus with her. With no car and only a few trips home each year, she recognized she wasn’t the only student facing this dilemma, and decided to take action.
“I was talking to my mom about it and she said ‘Well, you should come up with something to fix that.’ So that’s pretty much how Black Beauty Near You came about.”
The mathematics-computer science student put her web development skills to use, and launched her Black Beauty Near You business with a goal of making Black hair and skin care products more accessible to UC San Diego students. Through her website, people can order brushes, combs, bobby pins, braid charms, scalp oil, edge control, durags, makeup and other items they need.
For a time, Black Beauty Near You had a physical setup in the Black Resource Center’s The Shop, but with COVID-19 restrictions, sales are now all online. Day delivers the items to students on campus, and frequently changes up her inventory to reflect student requests.
To Day, this is just the first step, a stopgap measure until more permanent solutions are put in place. The UC San Diego Black Student Union—of which Day is co-publicity manager—is working with university administration to try and get more of these products that Black students need in markets on campus.
“My mind goes far. I know this isn’t the only school where there’s not Black beauty products on campus, and it would be nice if there could be better access to these items at more universities. It doesn’t have to be through Black Beauty Near You, but perhaps in the future I’ll find a way to help universities get these products on their campus, because I think it’s just a disconnect of knowing what is needed.”
In addition to working towards her math-computer science major—a combination of the mathematical theory and methods used in computer science, along with computer programming, structure, and algorithms—Day is also the web development chair of the Women in Computing undergraduate student organization, and was an intern for the Black Resource Center (BRC). She has a knack for finding ways to use her technical skills to empower her communities.
As a BRC intern, Day organized an event called Engineering Orgs Near You, bringing engineering student organizations to the Black Resource Center to recruit new members and share what they do. For her internship final project, she created a website called Magnifying San Diego, where people new to campus can find information on local places to hang out, get their hair or nails done, eat, or find a therapist, with a focus on the Black community.
“Jaida is a brilliant, motivated, and self-less scholar and person. She was an exemplar as an intern at the BRC, but she has also continued to be a dedicated and active member of the Black community at UC San Diego,” said Porsia Curry, director of the Black Resource Center. “Her yearlong project not only blew us away, but continues to be a tremendous resource for Black students. Our center and community are better because of her contributions.”
As WiC’s web development chair, she led the development of the group’s new website, developed entirely from scratch.
“I had never done that before, I had always used templates to develop a website, but never from scratch,” said Day. “So, I was nervous. But WiC is the best community ever; they’re so welcoming, so supportive, so helpful. Myself and some of our other board members got together virtually every week over the summer to work on the website, and we got it done.”
Her advice to students is to branch out and try new things.
“If I had never gone to that first WiC meeting, I would have never had this supportive community in my actual major. Because it’s one thing to hang around with people I identify with as my race, but it’s another to be with people who get the struggle of being a computer science student. So definitely try to find your community or communities on campus. Go to those different org meetings, you never know what you’ll find.”
Always thinking big picture, Day also had advice for increasing underrepresented groups in the computer science field as a whole, and here at UC San Diego.
For starters, more computer science camps and coding programs like Kode with Klossy, where Day got her first introduction to computer science, are needed, particularly in underserved areas.
“The summer after my junior year I did a two-week coding boot camp program through Kode with Klossy, and I thought OK that’s what I want to do; I know I’m good at math and think I like computer science, so why not do both,” said Day. “More of those programs and classes in schools or even like the coding camp I did would be a good start, just so students can have the option to see if they like it. Because if I hadn’t done that coding camp, I would not be a computer science student. I couldn’t even tell you what I’d be doing.”
Looking closer to campus, Day said she knows the UC San Diego admissions team is researching ways to reach more diverse groups of students and encourage them to attend UC San Diego, but emphasized the importance of this work.
“I probably only know one Black woman computer science student in each grade level,” she said. “We have to do better at bringing in more Black CS students. It’s isolating in class, and while I’ve gotten over it, it can be really isolating as a first year student when you come in and don’t see anyone that looks like you. We definitely have to do better with that.”
In October 2020, the Jacobs School of Engineering launched a Student and Faculty Racial Equity Task Force to assess and improve its efforts to create equitable learning and working environments, as one piece of UC San Diego’s larger efforts to address this issue. Learn more through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Division of Physical Sciences (which administers the Math-Computer Science major) are also actively engaged in addressing diversity issues.