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  • Judy Piercey

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  • Judy Piercey

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Grants Totaling $700K Fund Two Major Projects Aimed at Advancing Faculty Diversity

The University of California strives to reflect diversity in its students, faculty and staff. With the largest proportion of applicants to the UC System now students of color, it is critical that UC San Diego recruit more diverse faculty to better reflect the statewide population, and to foster an inclusive campus climate. To underscore its commitment to advancing faculty diversity, the University of California Office of the President has funded two major initiatives at UC San Diego through the UC Advancing Faculty Diversity (AFD) grant program.

An interdisciplinary cluster hiring project will recruit 10-12 faculty whose research is focused on racial/ethnic disparities in STEM fields with a significant focus on the Black Diaspora and African American communities. UC has provided $500,000 in one-time funding to assist with aspects of the recruitments. The new faculty will be located in the Division of Physical Sciences, Division of Biological Sciences, Jacobs School of Engineering, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Medicine, the new Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute.

Students in class.

Building on the Center for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion’s existing infrastructure of faculty affinity networks, a second initiative will seek to improve retention of underrepresented faculty through activities such as coaching for faculty mentors and coalition building. UC San Diego was awarded $200,000 in one-time funding to launch this project on our campus. The Center for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, a unit of the UC San Diego Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, managed the submission of both grants, and is a key partner in both initiatives.

Thandeka Chapman, a professor in Education Studies, is one of the project leads for the grant whose proposal, “Advancing Diverse Faculty, Curricula and Research through a Cluster Hire at UC San Diego,” seeks to recruit 10+ new faculty through a multidisciplinary cluster hire at the intersection of race/ethnicity and STEM. In addition to increasing faculty diversity in fields where faculty of color are underrepresented, the cluster would advance research on and for communities of color; diversify course offerings affiliated with the African American Studies Minor and the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) course requirement; and provide valuable mentoring for UC San Diego students.

Today, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic where social disparities translate into disparate health outcomes, this innovative proposal is both timely and globally relevant. UC San Diego leadership, including Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and EVC Elizabeth Simmons, are committing to 10-12 full-time employees (FTEs) for this initiative, and hiring under this cluster is one of only three hiring freeze exceptions that the Chancellor is allowing this year.

“The interdisciplinary cluster hire represents a renewed commitment in academia to address complex racial/ethnic and social issues and ideas in STEM from cross-disciplinary perspectives,” said Chapman. “It is our hope that through their efforts at UC San Diego, these new faculty members will benefit and enhance all aspects of our academic programming by giving students, faculty and staff opportunities to engage in critical issues of race and STEM that trespass traditional school and departmental silos, and work towards transformative change for underrepresented racial minorities and low-income communities.”

Education Studies Professor Makeba Jones, also a principal investigator (PI) for the project, added, “It is vital to say that at its core, this effort is much more than a cluster hire; it’s a systemic effort to address racial inequities on campus for African American undergraduate and graduate students by creating a cadre of scholars who focus on the African American Diaspora in the areas of medicine, health and the environment. Faculty will not only produce innovative research in STEM fields related to African American communities, they will also be involved in teaching undergraduates through the African American Studies minor and major as well as mentoring both undergraduates and graduate students.”

Faculty recruitment doesn’t end with the hiring process. A proposal by Associate Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Frances Contreras and Mardestinee Perez, director of Faculty Development and Diversity, entitled “A Holistic Strategy for Academic Success and Retention at UC San Diego” resulted in University of California funding to improve campus climate and retain faculty as part of the systemwide AFD program. The proposal seeks to improve the retention of underrepresented faculty through a holistic strategy of support, connection and leadership development. New efforts will complement ongoing institutional efforts to improve department culture and academic leadership.

“An issue that is often overlooked, particularly when we examine faculty diversity, is the critical issue of retention which is often intertwined with the state of the university and department climate,” said Contreras. “If faculty are engaged and able to thrive in their work environment, they are more likely to remain at UC San Diego and establish their academic careers and national reputation. Our efforts focus on helping faculty exercise their personal agency in navigating their department and this campus, while also assisting the campus to develop and examine infrastructures, processes and practices to improve department climates.”

Perez oversees all programming at the UC San Diego Center for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, a key campus entity for faculty retention efforts. “Having a diverse faculty enriches research and teaching, increases innovation and adds cultural value to the campus. If we are going to invest time and resources in faculty recruitment, we need to pay attention to retention. It is important that we create an environment where faculty want to stay, not just because UC San Diego is a prestigious institution, but because they feel good about working here and they feel valued. We need to create that sense of belonging, and not lose opportunities for connection and support—especially during this virtual work environment.”

Contreras added, “We are working to ensure that our cadre of diverse faculty want to call UC San Diego their academic home for the long term,” said Contreras. “They can help us to build a dynamic faculty network committed to the public mission of our university to both generate knowledge while also cultivating future generations of thought, industry and community leaders.”

To learn more about efforts to advance faculty diversity at UC San Diego, visit the Center for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion.

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