Karché Bass: Excelling in New Career at UCSF

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan

Karché Bass (left) meets with her supervisor Amy Foster, an assistant manager in UCSF Human Resources. Photo by Susan Merrell

One morning last summer, Karché Bass came in to a surprise at work: She was one of two Employee of the Month award recipients at UC San Francisco’s Human Resources department.

“She can be relied upon to deliver and exceed expectations,” was one of the many notes from teammates who had nominated her for the recognition, said Bass’ supervisor Amy Foster, an assistant manager in the HR department. “Receiving this award is a competitive process in a department of 170 employees, so it really is exceptional,” she added.

Five years ago, the moment would have been unthinkable for Bass. As a single mother of a newborn, living on welfare and looking for work, Bass had little administrative experience. During her search, a flyer for a new initiative at UCSF caught her eye: the Excellence through Community Engagement & Learning (EXCEL) program, a 10-week program followed by placements in four-month paid internships at various UCSF departments.

As part of EXCEL’s first class, Bass not only gained computer skills, training in customer service and medical terminology, she also found a supportive community of like-minded adults – many who came from similar backgrounds and had experienced similar challenges.

After she graduated, Bass worked with UCSF’s Temporary Employment Program (TEP) in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, then returned to a fulltime position in HR two years ago.

Foster, who began working with Bass during her EXCEL internship, was quickly impressed by her professional attitude and strong work ethic.

“I learned about the program through Karché,” Foster said. “My relationship with the program has evolved organically since then.” From her experiences working with Bass during her internship to connecting EXCEL graduates to temporary positions through the UCSF TEP, and now as Karché’s manager, Foster is a strong supporter of EXCEL’s mission. 

“The most rewarding part of the job has been helping to place interns and watching their careers grow,” she says. To her, the program’s success is best reflected in the increasing demand for EXCEL-trained employees from various departments – a need that has also helped expand the number of EXCEL cycles offered each year.

The EXCEL program graduated its latest class of 17 on Nov. 16 with celebration in Genentech Hall. Photo by Susan Merrell

When the program began in 2010, in partnership with Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) City and County of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency (HSA), it only trained 16 graduates in its first year. Now, the program receives more than 100 applicants to the two cycles it conducts each year; each accepts only 20 students in a class.

“The interns come in very motivated to learn and succeed and this translates into successful outcomes for them and their host department,” said Damon Lew, assistant director of UCSF Community Relations who manages the program. “Supervisors often encourage their colleagues to get involved with EXCEL because they see how much an intern can contribute.”

Since its inception, more than 40 UCSF departments have hosted interns, and approximately 70 percent of graduates continue to work in temporary or career positions at UCSF.

“EXCEL was definitely one of the best things that’s happened to me professionally,” said Bass. Since she completed the program, she has continued on to earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management via online courses. “The program gave me the push I needed, and it helped me get my foot in the door for a new career,” she added. “Then I wanted to go for something bigger.”

Foster sees the EXCEL program as an immense opportunity for UCSF departments. “It’s a great way to employ well-trained professionals,” she said. “Often, these are not the candidates you might meet through a typical job search process, but they offer their departments a valuable perspective and connection to a new demographic in the local community."

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