Berkeley Architecture student

The UC Berkeley Graduate Division has recently awarded grants totaling $1.5 million to nine departments within the university through the division’s new Graduate Diversity Pilot Program. The commitment is one of the largest single financial investments toward diversity efforts made by any graduate division in the nation.

The Graduate Diversity Pilot Program — established in July 2020 along with other initiatives directed toward combating racism and fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — provides funding to improve departmental climates for graduate and undergraduate students, staff, faculty (including lecturers), and postdocs; enhance faculty graduate student mentorship; and advance diversity in graduate outreach and admissions.

Recruitment is a priority as Berkeley strives to reflect California’s full diversity. Though the percentage has been rising steadily, students from underrepresented minorities still comprise only 14.7% of Berkeley’s graduate student body as of fall 2020.

Of the 27 departments that submitted proposals, those selected stood out for how well they aligned with the goals of the program, their relevance and potential for broad impact, and the feasibility and sustainability of their evaluation plans.

The nine units receiving four-year grants of up to $175,000 include: Architecture, Chemistry (including Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), Comparative Literature, Geography, History, Integrative Biology, Linguistics, the School of Information (I School), and Sociology.

“It’s our duty to directly address bias and systemic racism and create an academic environment where every student feels they belong,” explained Graduate Division Dean and Vice Provost Lisa García Bedolla. “We’re extremely fortunate to have the means to advance real positive change in our campus climate and I’m excited to partner with these amazing colleagues in that effort.”

The nine awardee departments will be using the funds to leverage existing internal DEI efforts and add new ones based on internal climate surveys and audits, best practices from other programs, and recommendations proposed by the Graduate Diversity Task Force.

A significant portion of funds is targeted for direct student support in the form of stipends, fee waivers, grants, paid internships and graduate student hiring, and fellowships — such as those outlined in a recent I School announcement.

Recognizing that underrepresented students often feel unsupported by peers and faculty and experience high amounts of stress, departments will also be investing in mental health initiatives, peer-to-peer mentoring, and socialization around issues of race. Grant funds are being allocated toward faculty and staff training and pedagogical reformation as in the department of Sociology where graduate students will be paid to begin refining course syllabi to incorporate scholars of color, particularly Black scholars, throughout the curriculum.

“We’re honored to be among the nine units chosen to receive this grant,” said Department of Architecture Chair, Renee Chow. “The grant serves as both catalyst and mandate for structural changes towards equity in our departmental pedagogy and infrastructure that will lead to inclusivity and diversity in the field of architecture.”

Jeffrey Reimer, Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the College of Chemistry echoed the broader potential impact of the grant. “We are fully committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion. We believe that fostering our graduate students is essential to the strengthening of the American scientific workforce and thereby growing innovation and creativity in the chemical sciences. Many of our graduate students have the talent for, and conviction to, contribute to diversifying our student population.This new program will provide both financial support and coordinated activities aimed at improving the College of Chemistry’s climate to grow that diversity.”

The Graduate Division is currently distributing the first round of funding to departments for this academic year and will be working to provide programmatic support to the 18 programs that applied but did not receive funding.

“It’s crucial that the university’s efforts to build diversity, combat systemic racism, and create a climate of inclusion and belonging not be limited to a handful of departments,” said Denzil Streete, Graduate Division Chief of Staff & Assistant Dean for Diversity. “We’re confident that the efforts outlined in these departments’ proposals will catalyze change across the campus community. With the support of the campus leadership and the Office for Graduate Diversity we’re committed to making that a reality for our current students and for those yet to join the Cal community.”

For more information about Graduate Diversity at Berkeley, visit this site.