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University of California System Joins AAAS SEA Change to Systematically Advance DEI in STEMM

Promo for University of California SEA Change charter membership announcement
The 10-campus University of California system is the newest SEA Change charter member. | Elena Zhukova/University of California

The University of California is the first university system to become a charter member of SEA Change, an initiative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that supports educational institutions as they systemically transform themselves to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM).

In joining SEA Change, the 10-campus system publicly commits to advancing the full participation of individuals across gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, familial history of higher education or any other aspect of identity that has been a source of bias in STEMM.

“Excellence, diversity, equity, and inclusion are all enduring values and unwavering priorities for the University of California,” said Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California. “This program continues our system’s intentional efforts to increase diversity and remove barriers to participation in STEMM. SEA Change will strengthen our work to train, recruit, and retain a diverse professoriate, which will ensure that UC continues to be a leader in high-caliber medical expertise, cutting-edge research, and exceptional education, while reflecting California’s rich diversity. UC looks forward to working with AAAS on this important work.”

Shirley Malcom, director of SEA Change, added, “We are honored to join in this unique SEA Change partnership with the University of California System. Each campus brings its own story and context to this work, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to SEA Change. While the UC campuses share a policy and governance framework, they need the customization that SEA Change offers, along with the opportunity to build system- and campus-wide communities of learning and practice to draw the best ideas forward.”

A Transformational Approach

Unlike many other diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives that focus on advancing individuals who have been marginalized or discriminated against, SEA Change – short for STEMM Equity Achievement – was launched in 2017 with the goal of changing the system. The initiative supports educational institutions as they undertake an in-depth data collection and self-assessment process to identify barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion for their students, faculty, and staff members. Then, they create individualized plans that break down those barriers.

Charter members of SEA Change have lauded the program for integrating the often-siloed diversity, equity, and inclusion work that takes place across departments and schools and for connecting institutions facing similar challenges and opportunities with one another to share best practices.

“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,” said Tracy Johnson, professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and dean of life sciences at UCLA College.

The SEA Change Community, which includes a publicly accessible community and private groups for members to connect, is one of the initiative’s three pillars. SEA Change also offers the Institute, a library of resources, trainings and events, and the SEA Change Awards, which recognize the progress that institutions have made toward systemic transformation.

Building Upon Progress

The systemwide participation in SEA Change builds upon the work of three university campuses that are already charter members of the program: the University of California, Davis, the University of California, Irvine, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“SEA Change has provided an indispensable platform for mobilizing faculty to realize inclusive excellence,” said Douglas Haynes, University Chief Diversity Officer and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at UC Irvine.

The campus, along with UC Davis, is among the five institutions that have already received SEA Change Institutional Bronze Awards. 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 their goals – for instance, faculty diversity.

“To date, UCI has made significant progress, but we needed a lever to accelerate transforming the professoriate and knowledge workforce of the future by 2030. Our SEA Change action plan will enable UCI to expand pathways to the faculty, recruit and retain a growing share of faculty who identify from underrepresented populations, scaffold success through culturally aware mentoring throughout the career continuum, and diversify academic leadership,” said Haynes.

“As a system, we will continue to enhance and accelerate our efforts to build a professoriate that truly represents all identities and perspectives, especially in STEMM fields that have historically marginalized diverse professionals,” said Yvette Gullatt, the University of California system’s president for Graduate and Undergraduate Affairs and vice provost for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

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 while also championing diversity, equity, and inclusion by sharing their own efforts with others – a recognition emblematic of SEA Change’s collaborative, rather than competitive, approach.

SEA Change’s Malcom concluded: “We applaud the many worthy efforts already underway at UC campuses. This new partnership allows them to build on and coalesce around this important work under the SEA Change umbrella. SEA Change looks forward to supporting each individual campus as they ‘go for the gold’ SEA Change recognition.”

To learn more about SEA Change and to join, visit