SEA Change, a new initiative created by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, provides a system of support and tools for academic institutions to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Science Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine (STEMM) at an institutional level. The University of California recently joined SEA Change, as charter members.
Why did your institution join SEA Change as a charter member? Why now?
At UCLA, we have been laser focused on ensuring that our campus embraces the rich diversity of the state of California and creates an environment that is truly inclusive, where all of the members of our community can thrive. SEA Change reflects that core value, and we are excited to be part of a larger community of institutions where we can share data-driven strategies, policies, and practices to advance equity and inclusion in Science Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine (STEMM).
What makes SEA Change different from other diversity, equity and inclusion efforts? How does it complement other DEI efforts?
SEA Change includes an intensive data collection and self-assessment process, which is used to guide institutional change. The charter members of SEA Change are able to take these rigorously-developed tools and apply them to their institutional contexts in order to foster data-driven decision making and strategy implementation. Being a charter member builds in a system of accountability for this commitment to systemic change.
A lot of excellent DEI work takes place in silos across institutions. It is a fundamental challenge faced by universities everywhere. Here at UCLA many different STEMM units have created exciting EDI innovations, and SEA Change affords the chance to share this work and work together to extend their reach and impact in areas of need, guided by data. SEA Change brings us together under one institutional initiative and helps create a structure within which we work with each other and with other SEA Change institutions.
Are there areas of focus or specific policies, processes or concerns that you hope to address and improve through your participation in SEA Change?
In multiple settings, research has shown that excellence is inextricably tied to diversity and inclusion. Aiming for excellence, an area of focus is to identify policies and practices that have become so embedded in the fabric of the institution that we don’t recognize their negative and exclusionary impact. So, we want to deploy strategies to reimagine and, when necessary, dismantle and rebuild these structures to reach our full potential as a truly inclusive institution.
A second area of focus is to specifically examine how we hire and retain faculty, so that we attract and retain outstanding individuals who will best serve our students and society through their science. This includes assessing the culture and climate for minoritized members of our community.
By becoming SEA Change charter members, you’re joining a community. What do you hope to get out of that community and contribute to it?
We all have a lot to learn from each other. We are eager to learn about what has worked and what has failed at other institutions. We are particularly excited to be part of a UC cohort where our sister campuses face similar challenges and opportunities. The University of California, as a system, has the opportunity to be a leader and model of systemic transformation.
SEA Change is built on ongoing, systematic change – where do you see your institution in this respect five or ten years down the road?
We are already on this exciting path and can see a clear road ahead, which is beautifully illustrated by the award designations of SEA Change: bronze, silver, and ultimately, gold. When we examine what it means to be reach gold status, this is exactly where we want to be—a model of continuous reflection, data-driven action, assessment, and improvement—with measurable outcomes to demonstrate our success. We know that achieving equity and inclusion is an iterative process, which we are committed to, and SEA Change provides critical support for this journey.