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A Home on Campus

The Cooper family ensures all students have a healthy place to live, work and thrive

Jennifer and Will Cooper’s daughter, a senior at UC Santa Barbara, chose campus because of the diverse and inviting culture. Will saw how students supported each other and was inspired to do the same by giving students the safety to think beyond their daily needs.

“I looked back on my college experience and remembered how important it is to have a place that you can call home to be successful,” said Will. “I’d love for UC Santa Barbara to have the ability to take in any student, regardless of income, and guarantee that student a place to live.”

The UC Santa Barbara Office of Financial Aid reports that uncertain housing comprises 76% of student emergencies, a statistic that compelled Will Cooper Jr. to help students by supporting short-term housing vouchers.

Will’s family is committed to affordable housing, a mission he leads as president and CEO of WNC. His father founded WNC in 1971 to develop affordable rental housing when few people understood its significance. Today, WNC raises capital from institutional investors and re-invests in affordable housing around the country. Will joined WNC after graduating from American University and leading a career as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist and activist.

“When you have to worry about how you’re going to cover rent or find a place to sleep at night, you can’t think globally and make the big plans a college student should be making,” said Will.

In addition to the Housing Voucher Program, Will supports Promise Scholars and UC Santa Barbara sustainability efforts to ensure all students have a healthy place to live, work and thrive on campus.

"From the very first time I met Will I could feel his passion for helping others and making a difference,” said Michael Miller, assistant vice chancellor, enrollment services. “Will is thoughtful and compassionate and UC Santa Barbara is lucky to have supporters like him."

Private support helped Promise Scholar Zenzile Riddick ’19 remain enrolled. The Promise Scholar program provides talented first-generation and low-income undergraduates with full support and wraparound services during their four years on campus. Zenzile thrived at UC Santa Barbara: She earned the Thomas M. Storke Award and begins a doctorate in education at Harvard University this fall.

“The work that I did with Promise Scholars influenced who I want to be,” said Zenzile. “Creating those scholarships gives young people opportunities and vision.”

For the Cooper family, the success of Zenzile and her classmates is worth it.

“You get a lot more in return than you give,” said Will. “To help kids have the college experience that they deserve is really the reward.”