UC joins program to improve diversity in STEM, medicine

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Anthony Angel Peréz/Senior Staff
The SEA Change program is part of the UC system's 2030 goal to improve diversity and help more students earn degrees in STEM and medicine.

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University of California leaders announced May 24 the decision for all 10 campuses to join the STEMM Equity Achievement Change program, or SEA Change, an initiative to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, or STEMM, fields.

Administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, SEA Change is a program that aims to transform institutions’ STEMM programs into ones where diversity, equity and inclusion are the norm.

“We stand up separate interventions or programs to try to address some problems that we have in regards to access or opportunity,” said Shirley Malcom, senior advisor and director of SEA Change. “Why can’t we change structures and ways that it is normative to expect that we will see diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, justice.”

UC Irvine, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz have already shown immense progress in welcoming and retaining a more diverse faculty as well as students from underrepresented groups since becoming charters for SEA Change, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King. Due to the positive results, the university decided to participate in this program at a systemwide scale, becoming the first to do so in the United States.

King added that this will serve as one step toward achieving the UC 2030 goal, an ambitious plan established in 2019 to help more students earn degrees.

“This effort is further meant to complement, integrate, and enhance existing initiatives already underway across the University,” King said in an email. “Our newest systemwide initiative to transform the future professoriate — Growing Our Own and Diversifying Ph.D. Pathways — will benefit from universitywide participation in SEA Change and its self-assessment model.”

With the assistance of the SEA Change team, campuses will complete a self-assessment by examining current data and identifying problem areas, according to Malcom. Next, they will establish measurable goals regarding recruitment and retention and implement them over a few years. Lastly, they will measure results and participate in external review and assessment for an opportunity to earn awards from SEA Change.

While Malcom said improvements relating to diversity, equity and inclusion are necessary across all fields in all institutions, there have been particularly difficult barriers and issues within STEMM.

“If you look at physics, we have been trying for decades and decades through special projects, programs, initiatives to move the needle for women and people of color and it just hasn’t happened,” Malcom said. “It is an opportunity to take some of the more challenging areas and lead with those challenges and begin to accrue benefits across the institution.”

Contact Erica Jean at [email protected].