Spotlight Stories: Daiman Baker, UCSD


Daiman Baker, originally from Los Angeles, California is a UC San Diego alumnus. He has lived internationally for over 20 years and currently works as a consultant in financial services in the UK.


How did you end up at UC San Diego?

Gosh you’re taking me back to 1988! Right, I applied to UCLA, UCSD, USC and Stanford. I chose UCSD for a couple of reasons. An older, neighborhood friend was going there and the way he spoke about it, it sounded like a great place to be. During my first visit to campus, my parents and I were on a walking tour, and I looked over and saw a guy on a mountain bike zig zagging through the Eucalyptus trees. He hit this jump and when he was in mid-air, it was like time stopped. I was totally captivated by what that action symbolized: freedom, independence, charting my own path. I thought ‘this is where I am going to school’. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life – in part because of some guy on a mountain bike. Of course, going to a top-ranked UC and being close to the sea factored into my decision as well.

How was your experience at UCSD and what did you study?

I started as an engineering major. I had a year of physics, calculus, and chemistry and found it intense and not really me. Then I decided to switch to Economics with minors in calculus and philosophy.

While I was at UCSD, some lifelong friendships were forged; I was in a challenging academic environment and on a beautiful campus. I lived about a 20-minute walk away from Blacks Beach my first two years living at – what was then called – Warren College (named after Earl Warren, a Supreme Court justice). The backdrop to my university life was La Jolla and Del Mar and you can’t go wrong there. I love surfing and got to do a lot of that when I was in undergrad.

The fact that UCSD is so heavily academic really stretched me and exposed to me to so many diverse learning opportunities. To be in a place like that at such a formative time in my life … sometimes I am baffled and humbled by how fortunate I am to have gone to UCSD.

What has your international experience been like?         

My international experience began when I was a kid. My dad works for an airline, so we travelled a lot in the ‘70s and ’80s. I graduated UCSD in ’93 and a year later I went to law school and participated in a summer law program at Oxford (craving travel). While on that program, I met a woman who was from France, so the next summer I studied law in France. After I graduated law school, she came to live in Los Angeles, which she did not enjoy, so I thought it was time to go. We moved back to France where I got my MBA. Through a summer internship, I was offered a job at an investment bank in London and that’s what got me to the UK. Roughly a year later, we broke up, but I stayed on in London. Staying in Europe turned out to be another great life decision.

I ended up meeting an English woman, having two kids and moving to Cornwall, and still commuting occasionally to London. But once my kids are out of the house, I’ll probably remain an expat. I’d like to go East, but I don’t think I’ll ever live again in the US. The world is such an incredible place with so many interesting people in it, I cannot imagine shackling myself to just one place during my lifetime.

Both my experience growing up as a black man in the US, and then studying law and the evolution of it, I know that there is a lot of institutional racism. There’s a lot to deal with there, so it was easy for me to leave. Being a person of color and travelling internationally is not common and so many conversations rooted in curiosity opened up. Since leaving the US, I can compare how I’ve been treated there versus in Europe. On average, I am treated better here. Someone else will undoubtedly have a different lived experience, but I know I have a better quality of life in the UK and in Cornwall.

Travelling and living abroad has made me more self-aware and more open-minded. It has given me a wider perspective on life and how I choose to live it. Experiencing other cultures made me hungry for more and is something I’m slowly passing on to my kids.

We go back to LA to visit my relatives and my kids like to visit but also do not want to live there. One aspect of my legacy is to ensure my kids have the confidence and are equipped to go out into the world.

Daiman Baker Running the Vitality 10k, 2022

You participated in our UC Alumni UK Annual 10k Charity Run last year (2022).  You did a fantastic job fundraising for UCSD study abroad programs. What attracted you to joining the 10k race?

Blame Violet!* She mentioned it to me, and I decided to do it. I ran track in high school, so I started training. I had a good time last year, so thought I’d do it again this year.  

Why does fundraising for study abroad scholarships appeal to you?

I have a duty to encourage more students to travel abroad. I left the US, I came here, and the world instantly became smaller, and I am constantly reminded how much we all have in common. At the end of the day, that really is comforting in a time when divisions could define us. We all need reminding just how fleeting life can be and how connecting with others is so fulfilling and grounding.

And for those reading this who are either running or thinking of running this year, do you have any tips or tricks on fundraising and training?

Having a plan really helped. Having specific goals and times to shoot for and to monitor progress. This was my first organised run, and it was so nice running with other people and sharing the same experience – UC and international. Running with other UC alumni made it more fun and I went into it more relaxed.

Some serious advice – I ran it, and I ran really hard. Then I had a few beers afterwards. Stretch before you drink!

On fundraising, I pulled on the heart strings of other UC alumni and some old friends. I used Strava (an app that tracks your routes and times) and took pictures of myself out on runs. It gave people a sense that I was taking this seriously. So, I would say keep people updated on your progress and enjoy the journey!


Interview conducted by Romy Stein on March 7th, 2023. 

*(UC San Diego Director of Development & Community Engagement, Violet Del Toro)