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Three Universities Earn SEA Change Bronze Award by Supporting STEMM Success

SEA Change Bronze Awardees 2024
Representatives of the three newest SEA Change Bronze Award-winning institutions received their awards at the 2024 AAAS Annual Meeting in Denver in February. | SEA Change

Three universities are being recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science with the 2024 SEA Change Institutional Bronze Award. North Carolina State University, University of California, San Diego, and University of California, Santa Cruz received the awards at the AAAS Annual Meeting in February to honor their commitment to excellence in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) by supporting success for all. 

The SEA Change initiative offers a framework and community for colleges and universities as they undertake a rigorous, data-informed self-assessment and action planning process to identify and begin to demolish barriers to opportunity and excellence in STEMM. Award applications are peer-reviewed by a panel of experts in STEMM higher education and diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEIA). 

“AAAS SEA Change is proud to recognize the three 2024 Institutional Bronze Awardees,” said Shirley Malcom, founding director of SEA Change and a senior advisor at AAAS. “This year’s class showcases the robust ways the SEA Change framework can be used to pursue goals that emerge from institutional missions. NC State, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz demonstrate the creativity that has been applied while addressing challenges to success in STEMM for all.”

North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University is recognized for developing an action plan that is forward-thinking, strategically aligned with their institutional mission and designed within the unique parameters determined by their state laws. 

Said Malcom, “NC State is one of those institutions operating under different state-level legal constraints. They were able to craft a plan that is legally permissible while remaining authentic to their mission of serving all students well.”

University of California San Diego

The University of California San Diego is recognized for developing an action plan that is rooted in evidence-based decision making, their commitment to consistent, iterative improvement, and their clear understanding that systemic transformation relies on an institution refusing to rest on its prior achievements. 

“I have seen the deep commitment UC San Diego has to not only identifying areas that may need action, but to doing the difficult, in-depth work to understanding what is at the root of the need for action,” Beth Ruedi, associate program director for SEA Change at AAAS. 

University of California, Santa Cruz

The University of California, Santa Cruz is recognized for developing an action plan rooted in their institutional commitment to equity. The university is especially commended for their focus on faculty with disabilities—an often-overlooked but critical element of inclusive scientific excellence. 

“Over the last decade, our campus has made significant strides in DEI work through a variety of initiatives and programs aimed at fostering a campus climate that values diversity and promotes inclusion, and the faculty have been a critical component of these efforts, working collaboratively with campus partners to promote a respectful and thriving environment for all,” said Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer. “Equity-focused faculty development is a main focus of our SEA Change action plan, which will not only further our teaching and research mission through inclusive excellence across all divisions and disciplines but will also enhance and amplify the essential leadership role our faculty play in these efforts.”

Said Malcom, “With many efforts already in place, UC Santa Cruz used this opportunity to look at how these pieces fit together as well as what is missing, in this case how to focus on and address the needs of faculty with disabilities. It was important to them to consider physical, cultural and social accessibility.”

A Multi-faceted Initiative

The multi-faceted SEA Change initiative includes the awards program, which includes Institutional Awards, Biomedicine Awards for medical schools and health science centers and a new pilot for a departmental award in physics and astronomy. The 2024 Awardees bring the total number of institutions holding a SEA Change Institutional Bronze Award to seven. Other Awardees include the University of California, Davis, Arizona State University, University of California, Irvine, and the University of Florida.

The initiative also includes the SEA Change Institute – a library of courses related to institutional capacity-building for barrier removal and excellence – and the SEA Change Community. The community is publicly accessible but also offers additional opportunities for connections among the 27 SEA Change member institutions. 

Institutional Bronze Award winners must have completed the self-assessment of their institution’s policies, procedures, and climate, demonstrate a deep understanding of the underlying issues contributing to the challenges they face, and create an action plan to address those challenges.

SEA Change includes accountability mechanisms and encourages participants to measure progress. An institution holds a Bronze Award for five years, after which they apply either for a renewal of their award or for the next award progression. Silver Awards will honor continued self-assessment and demonstrated achievements in the institution’s own action plan. Gold Awards will recognize institutions that have carried out major transformations and shared their own efforts with others.

“Achieving a SEA Change Bronze Award is no small feat. Institutions earning this award have demonstrated significant effort developing institution-wide strategic actions that are data-informed and people-oriented to remove systemic barriers to the ability of all talent to thrive on their campuses,” said Travis York, director of Inclusive STEM Ecosystems for Equity and Diversity (ISEED) at AAAS. “Institutional change takes time, effort and a commitment to excellence, and the 2024 Institutional Bronze Awardees have proven they are capable of achieving that aim. I can’t wait to see the impact of their ongoing efforts.”

For more information about SEA Change, including membership and award details, visit seachange.aaas.org.

Author

Andrea Korte

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