Inclusion in Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is fully committed to and supportive of the efforts on Inclusive Excellence.

As a community, we acknowledge the richness of commonalities and differences we share, the intrinsic worth of all who work and study here. We aspire to create respect for and appreciation of all persons as a key characteristic of our campus community and to achieve an environment that welcomes and supports diversity as well as ensuring full educational opportunities for all who teach, learn, and work here.

 

UCI Department of Physics & Astronomy Action Plan in Support of our Black Community

Preamble

We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and our Black community. The recent tragic examples of anti-Black racism highlight how deeply institutional racism can run, and necessitates an introspective look at our own practices. We can and will do better, and we are committed to meaningful change. This community action plan represents the first major reform to be taken in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCI, in hopes of pushing towards greater equity, representation, and accountability. This plan was the result of community input at our town hall, with a group of students and postdocs known as Luchadorx providing numerous suggestions. Further refinement occurred with broad community input to develop the form you see now.

Structure of Plan

The community action plan consists of three components, addressing various aspects of anti-Black racism in areas across the Department. The categories are: Addressing systemic and Institutionalized Racism, engaging in stronger support for our Black community, and increasing Black representation in Physics & Astronomy research. The goal is to place the workload across our entire community and not to place the burden on any single demographic. The following goals are the initial commitments of the Department, which will be implemented in the 2020-21 Academic year.

Address systemic and institutionalized racism

The Department will address systemic and institutionalized racism by:

● Providing annual training in student and postdoc orientations, as well as faculty and staff annual retreats. Training will be on micro/macroagressions, cultural sensitivity, and bystander intervention training.

● Expand current exit surveys to include all community members. We will identify new means of incentivizing completion.

● Reform TA training in consultation with DTEI.

● We will no longer require any GRE exam for graduate applications, starting Fall 2020.

This expands upon the fact that we already do not require the Physics subject GRE.

● Identify biases in our courses and in major completion rates. Form a committee to develop corrective action for instructors and student affairs advisors.

● Identify biases in our admissions processes. Request that the admissions committee develop a corrective action plan.

● Faculty which complete DTEI course design workshop, which emphasizes inclusive course design highlighting the work of BIPOC and Latinx scholars, will be advertised throughout the Department as allies and have this mentioned in the Chair’s letter of support for merit and tenure.

● In collaboration with the American Physical Society IDEA for physics, reform the Inclusive Excellence Committee to be a model of shared leadership, with membership from all areas of our community.

● An Annual Report of Diversity and Inclusion will be produced annually, beginning in 2020. This report will document major trends in admissions, recruitment, and retention in a manner which complies with student privacy protections. Faculty recruitment statistics will also be presented. Summarized reports of transgressions and exit surveys will be published as well. We anticipate that the results of this will be presented at annual town halls, and it will be posted on our website.

 

Engage in stronger support for our Black community

The Department will engage in stronger support for our Black community by:

● Broader representation in our communications where we will feature Black and URM scholars and researchers. We will have assessments of representation in social media, press releases, award nominations, merits, etc.

● Host activities celebrating and showcasing physics & astronomy with regards to diversity focused themes. This will include participating in celebratory months such as Black History Month.

● Advertise and sponsor community members to participate at diversity focused conferences such as SACNAS, NSBE and NSBP. Will also advertise funding opportunities from campus partners such as Grad Division.

● Engage with UCI Cross Cultural Center to co-sponsor events.

● Leverage fundraising events such as UCIGivingDay for diversity focused scholarships and fellowships.

● Provide funding for peer mentoring activities such as Resonance and PACE.

● Expanding our first year efforts to provide panels and workshops showcasing available opportunities.

 

Increase Black representation in Physics & Astronomy Research

The Department commits to increasing Black representation in Physics & Astronomy research by:

● Inviting speakers from HBCU/MSIs for seminars and colloquiums. In the event that our speakers are unable to travel, we will use the travel funds to provide honorariums.

Assessment of the diversity of speaking engagements will be produced in our annual report.

● Have student representation on the Colloquium committee.

● Specifically recruit students from diversity focused professional development programs such as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, the McNair Scholars Program, the UC Leadership & Excellence through Advanced Degrees program, and the UC HBCU Initiative Summer Research Program. For students which participate in these programs at UCI, provide targeted admissions advice and preparation.

● Request that merit committees interview graduate students and postdocs as part of their report to the Department.

● Host faculty from HBCU/MSIs for the explicit purpose of forming research collaborations.

The Department will work with the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Office of Research to coordinate visits and potential funding opportunities.

● Utilize the American Physical Society Bridge Program to recruit diverse graduate students.

● Advertise and sponsor travel for faculty and students to visit HBCUs/MSI to present seminars and explore potential research collaborations.

● Provide proposal consultation for the UC HBCU-Initiative, NSF funded outreach activities, and Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship applications. Discuss such opportunities at annual faculty retreat.

● Provide postdoctoral mentoring and career development plans. Postdoctoral Fellows will have physics faculty preparation plans.

This community action plan builds off of the Code of Conduct established by the Department, which we will continue to implement and enforce in a more transparent manner and based on best practices. 

 

Committee on Inclusive Excellence

The Committee on Inclusive Excellence in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is comprised of faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students who are passionate about promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in physics.

Please feel free to reach out to a committee member if you are interested in getting involved in supporting our Inclusion Initiative or if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions.  

Faculty Representatives

 

Franklin Dollar

fdollar@uci.edu

Mu-Chun Chen

muchunc@uci.edu

David Kirkby

dkirkby@uci.edu

Pedro Ochoa-Ricoux (Chair)

jpochoa@uci.edu

Judit Romhanyi

jromhanyi@uci.edu 

Anyes Taffard

ataffard@uci.edu

Laura Tucker

tucker@uci.edu

Staff Representatives

 

My Banh

mbanh@uci.edu

Ada Ramirez

ada.ramirez@uci.edu

Postdoc/Researcher Representatives

 

Joakim Olsson

j.mr.olsson@gmail.com

Vivian U

vivianu@uci.edu

Graduate Student Representatives

 

Maya Silverman

msilver2@uci.edu 

Matthew Dowicz mdowicz@uci.edu
Matthew Forman formanm@uci.edu

Undergraduate Student Representatives

 

Stephen Coffey

coffeys@uci.edu

Natali Fisher 

nfisher2@uci.edu

APS-IDEA Action Plan

APS-IDEA Driver Diagram

Support

It is essential that our department provide a nurturing environment such that members of our community who identify with underrepresented groups can thrive. Otherwise, any efforts to recruit members who identify with underrepresented groups are counterproductive. We plan to create a supportive and inclusive environment with the following actionable steps. We are working to reassess the GPA requirements for students to stay in the physics & applied physics majors and provide increased academic support to students whose grades fall below a certain level. We will continue to support mentoring and community building programs where students can connect with and be supported by their peers, more senior students, and faculty. Finally, we plan to create ways to support members of our community for whom financial difficulties are a hindrance to success. Overall, our goal is to foster a culture where everybody feels welcome and respected.

Awareness

A key to increasing representation from underrepresented groups is to raise awareness and involvement from everyone in the department. The labor of DEI should not befall the marginalized but be spread among all allies. To this end, we prioritize education and engagement in the department community through various venues. For example: our department code of conduct is displayed throughout our shared spaces; we have established community building programs to engage grad students (PACE) and first-year majors (Resonance); we hold and encourage deep discussions on relevant topics in our anti-racism and inclusion journal club across departments in the School of Physical Sciences; and we disseminate quarterly newsletters to the whole department community that spotlight topics of interest to underrepresented groups and detail our commitment and actionable items for accountability.  In the future, we plan presentations at student orientation events and faculty meetings to further raise awareness of our ongoing activities.

Recruitment

Developing a recruitment practice that is inclusive and equitable for future undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, postdocs, faculty and staff is of utmost importance as we work to address biases (implicit, explicit) and other inequities that impact hiring, promotion and retention of underrepresented community members. In order to reach diverse students, we intend to further develop financial support structures for students, improve fairness in recruitment practices and develop pathways to success for current and prospective students through K-12 outreach programs and the APS Bridge Program.

Action Plan Resources

Major Requirements

It is very common for students to struggle academically in their first physics and math courses at UCI, and many students who have difficulties go on to successfully complete degrees in physics & applied physics. We are evaluating both the requirements given to students to be removed from academic probation as well as the academic requirements to change majors to physics and applied physics. We also plan to strengthen the advising students receive when they are placed on academic probation.

Mentoring Programs

Community Building Programs

Our department recognizes the importance of a supportive community for students. In 2018, efforts to build community among graduate students (PACE) and incoming undergraduates (Resonance) were started towards this effort. PACE is a graduate-student-led mentoring and community-building program to normalize a holistic approach to success as a UCI physics graduate student and strengthen our community through trained mentors. Resonance groups between five and eight incoming students with continuing undergraduates who serve as peer mentors. The goal of the program is to provide community among physics and applied physics students, build excitement about physics, and help students navigate challenges of the first year in physics at UCI.

Financial Support

Code of Conduct

In 2019, the diversity & inclusion committee in the department published our first departmental code of collegial conduct. The goal was to ensure that all members of our community are treated with respect and consideration. The code of conduct was posted in hallways and laboratories, as well as posted on the website, in an effort to make these important norms visible.

Quarterly Newsletter

Anti-Racism & Inclusion Journal Club

Grad Recruitment

APS Bridge

Team-Up

Outreach Programs