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UCLA’s hiring initiatives focus on equitable representation in higher education

Bunche Hall (pictured) hosts the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, part of an equity initiative on campus. UCLA has attempted to increase representational hiring on campus for all racial and ethnic groups. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Catherine Hamilton

Sept. 16, 2022 8:29 p.m.

Recent faculty hiring commitments aim to increase scholarship at UCLA in Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the movement for racial justice increased awareness of diversity issues and subsequently, the lack of equitable representation in higher education, said Shannon Speed, the director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center and a special advisor to Chancellor Gene Block on Native American and Indigenous affairs.

Diversity initiatives already in motion at UCLA, such as Rising to the Challenge, the Hispanic Serving Institution and the Native American and Pacific Islander Bruins Rising, gained traction for implementation, said David Yoo, the vice provost of the Institute of American Cultures, in an emailed statement.

Rising to the Challenge began in June 2020 with the goal of increasing Black representation on campus through the student body and scholarship, according to the chancellor’s website. The initiative involved hiring 10 additional faculty experts in Black studies, appointing a special faculty advisor to the chancellor’s office and creating a Black Bruin Resource Center on campus, according to the website.

[Related: Black student leaders call on UCLA to increase Black Bruin Resource Center funding]

Another goal to support marginalized communities, an HSI designation, is given by the United States Department of Education and requires a university to have an undergraduate enrollment rate of 25% Hispanic students who are also from low-income backgrounds, alongside other criteria, said César Oyervides-Cisneros, senior administrator of campus initiatives with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. Not only would HSI status allow UCLA to apply for specific grants, but it would also increase support for these students and faculty members, he added.

“Building that community on a campus is really necessary for students in general just to succeed,” he said. “They’re going to be looking at their peers and at their professors for that type of support to navigate … up to graduation and then beyond the career exploration aspect.”

The Native American and Pacific Islander Bruins Rising Initiative – announced in June – started two years ago with a group of faculty members and students who raised equity concerns with Block, Speed said, adding that the administration is committed to improving recruitment and retention for these communities.

Additionally, the UCLA American Indian Studies Center is in the process of becoming a formal department, added Speed, who is also a professor of anthropology, gender studies and American Indian studies. She said new hires in Native American scholarship will help build a concrete foundation for the department.

“Native students tend to want to go where they have Native faculty and have them to work with and have them as role models, mentors,” she said.

Yoo said in the emailed statement the Mentor Professor Program in STEM fields and both the University of California President’s and Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship programs have been successful in increasing UCLA faculty diversity.

Faculty hiring lines have helped diversify UCLA for decades, Yoo said in the statement, adding that many of the hires continue to contribute to campus not only through teaching but in leadership positions such as department or program chairs, center directors and deans. The Institute of American Cultures has worked with the chancellor’s office to create these faculty hiring commitments, he added.

Speed said the coalitions of faculty, students and staff who work with the chancellor’s office for these equitable hiring lines are important for UCLA’s commitment to continued representation.

“Having a diverse faculty is important on many levels – from who is represented in the classroom, to the kinds of research that takes place, and how UCLA engages with its service mission as a public university,” Yoo said in the emailed statement. “Equity has a lot to do with access and that means access at all levels which we know contributes directly to UCLA’s excellence.”

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Catherine Hamilton | National news and higher education editor
Hamilton is the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor. She was previously a national news contributor. She is also a second-year English and political science student.
Hamilton is the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor. She was previously a national news contributor. She is also a second-year English and political science student.
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