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
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.
Pedro Ochoa-Ricoux (Chair)
Graduate Student Representatives
Undergraduate Student Representatives
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 undergraduate students to stay in the physics & applied physics majors and provide increased academic support to students. 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.
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 people who identify with marginalized groups 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 regular 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.
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 bridge programs such as APS Bridge and Cal-Bridge.
We do not claim to have completely figured out the strategy to reach our primary goal, and nor do we have all the answers — this is a work in progress. Meaningful change will only occur via the support of the entire community, and we thus hope that you will seriously consider getting involved and taking action. Please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com (or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer to reach Prof. Ochoa directly) if you would like to know more or if you are interested in contributing to these efforts.
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.
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. UNITY at UCI is a representative body for all folks whose gender identities and/or experiences of gender have been historically marginalized in physics and astronomy at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels. In addition to holding community building and informational events, UNITY houses a graduate to undergraduate student mentoring program.
In an effort to reduce the financial burden that students may face during their academic journeys in the department, we intend to further develop and better communicate financial support resources. For example, the S-STEM Physics Scholars Program provides many scholarships to financially-eligible and academically meritorious undergraduate students majoring in physics or applied physics. Graduate student teaching and research assistantships are also available in the department as well as fellowships and other support options through UCI Graduate Division. Additional information regarding financial support can be found through the UCI Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
In an effort to ensure that all members of our community are treated with respect and consideration, the diversity & inclusion committee of the Physics & Astronomy department published its first departmental code of collegial conduct in the Fall 2018 quarter. It encompasses a list of professional behaviors expected among members of the department as well as unacceptable behaviors for which the offenders would be held accountable. The code was arrived at through a yearlong process involving students, researchers, staff and faculty that culminated in a Town Hall meeting attended by over 200 members of the community. The code of conduct was posted in hallways and laboratories, as well as on the website, in an effort to make these important norms visible.
The School of Physical Sciences Anti-racism & inclusion journal club endeavors to create an open dialogue across the school focused on journal articles, books, podcasts or other media that address inequalities in STEM and society or other relevant DEI related topics. The hope is that by engaging in critical conversations that spark reflection and action, we can work together to create a more equitable, inclusive and anti-racist environment within the School of Physical Sciences. If you are interested in volunteering to lead a future discussion or have suggestions for reading materials, please submit the interest form. Everyone (including undergrad, grad, postdocs/research scientists, staff and faculty) is invited and welcome to lead or participate in these important discussions.
The APS Bridge Program is a coalition of academic institutions, national laboratories, and other educational organizations that share a commitment to increasing educational opportunities for students from underrepresented groups. As a bridge partner institution, UCI hosts underrepresented students who need additional coursework, research experience, or mentoring, to put together a successful application for a doctoral program.
As a Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy (TEAM-UP) departmental team, our goal is to ensure that our department and community embraces systemic changes which will result in a positive shift in department culture and climate so that we can better support our Black and African American community members. We are working to address institutional biases which affect our recruitment, retention, advising, mentoring, and hiring procedures, as well as to foster a sense of belonging through increased partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) and to provide personal and academic support. The goal is to increase representation of Black and African American members in the department across students, research and administrative staff, and faculty.
The Department of Physics & Astronomy have established many community outreach programs and educational activities that provide opportunities for K-12 students to explore STEM concepts and educational and career pathways. For example, Rising Stargirls, founded by Professor Aomawa Shields, is dedicated to encouraging girls of all colors and backgrounds to learn, explore, and discover the universe through interactive astronomy workshops using theater, writing, and visual art. Adventures in Physics, led by Professor Bill Heidbrink, is a public event that promotes physics for all ages through live experiments and demonstrations. These are just a few of the many outreach activities that exist within the school.