UC strengthens efforts to remove barriers to STEMM, works to accelerate progress in diversifying professoriate by becoming first charter University system in SEA Change

The University of California today (May 24) announced that its 10 campuses have joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) STEMM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change program, making UC the first institution of higher learning to sign on at a systemwide level. Three University campuses, UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz, are established charter members of the program.

SEA Change aims to eliminate systemic barriers to STEMM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) and foster engagement from communities underrepresented in, and historically excluded from, these fields. Underrepresented communities identified by SEA Change include BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and disabled professionals, as well as individuals from disadvantaged socioeconomic and first-generation educational backgrounds. AAAS’ programming will further strengthen and accelerate UC’s efforts to recruit, train and retain a culturally competent and diverse faculty, while also enhancing campus efforts to attract promising students to postgraduate opportunities, growing a more diverse STEMM workforce in the process.

“Excellence, diversity, equity and inclusion are all enduring values and unwavering priorities for the University of California,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. “This program continues our campuses’ intentional efforts to increase diversity and remove barriers to participation in STEMM. SEA Change will strengthen our work to train, recruit and retain a diverse professoriate, which will ensure that UC continues to be a leader in high-caliber medical expertise, cutting-edge research and exceptional education while reflecting California’s rich diversity. UC looks forward to working with AAAS on this important effort.”

Institutions participating in SEA Change embark on an exploration of their internal priorities and processes with a goal of formulating intentional, measurable change. The University has determined that a systemwide approach to SEA Change will better align campus efforts while adding value to work already undertaken. Pursuit of a SEA Change Award begins by conducting a self-assessment and using those findings to establish a five-year action plan with clear goals and metrics. These action plans are shared with external reviewers who evaluate the award application and can recommend an initial Bronze rating to the campus. SEA Change requires that institutions renew their award every five years to demonstrate progress and assess whether a campus stays at the Bronze level or moves upward in ratings to Silver and eventually Gold.

“The University of California is educating the faculty of the future,” said UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “We are national leaders in inclusive excellence, as seen by the great diversity of our student body and by our recognized STEM-intensive programs that are enhancing the diversity of the science and engineering fields at the doctoral level. But we can and must do more.”

Over the next three fiscal years, a UC-wide cohort will be guided through the SEA Change Awards process. The immersive cohort will receive training and resource materials to develop new strategies to reduce or eliminate barriers to access and to undertake new research on faculty diversity and inclusive excellence. Each campus will be represented in the cohort by at least one individual who will be recruited through a selection process developed by the campuses. UC Davis and UC Irvine received SEA Change Bronze Awards in 2018 and 2021, respectively.

“We are honored to join in this unique SEA Change partnership with the University of California system,” said Shirley Malcom, Ph.D., senior advisor to the CEO and director of SEA Change at AAAS. “The system has done its diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility work within policy constraints for decades, and the law-attentive structure of SEA Change accommodates and supports that. We applaud the many worthy efforts already underway at UC campuses. This new partnership allows them to build on and coalesce around this important work under the SEA Change umbrella. SEA Change looks forward to supporting each individual campus as they ‘go for the gold’ SEA Change recognition.”

Under the program, the action plans developed by campuses can also be adapted as best practices for other non-STEMM disciplines.

This effort builds on successful UC initiatives to improve faculty and graduate student diversity, including the Advancing Faculty Diversity Initiative, which focuses on equitable faculty recruitment and hiring practices; the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP), which offers postdoctoral research fellowships to outstanding scholars in all fields whose research, teaching and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity at UC; and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) to diversify the graduate student population through summer research and academic mentoring. A $15 million grant to the University by the Mellon Foundation complements SEA Change with crucial support to diversify humanities and humanities-inflected social science faculty.

“One of the University’s most important priorities is expanding access to an affordable, high-quality UC education,” said Dr. Yvette Gullatt, vice president for Graduate and Undergraduate Affairs and vice provost for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. “The only way we can make that goal a reality is by making intentional efforts to mentor and recruit an excellent and diverse faculty. As a system, we will continue to enhance and accelerate our efforts to build a professoriate that truly represents all identities and perspectives, especially in STEMM fields that have historically marginalized diverse professionals.”

You may find more information on the University of California’s efforts to support and strengthen equity and diversity within its faculty here.

About the SEA Change program

The mission of AAAS STEMM Equity Achievement (SEA) Change is to inspire, guide and support voluntary transformation of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) fields in colleges and universities so the community-building, work, products and practitioners exemplify excellence, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Interested media may find further information about SEA Change here and at the FAQ section here.