Actions and Initiatives

Life Sciences Diversity Advisory Committee

Life Sciences Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC) was established in 2011 to advise the dean on actions Life Sciences could take to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

DAC actions include:

  • developing guidelines for Life Sciences’ Mentor Professor Initiative  (See section below.)
  • recommending that all Life Sciences faculty submit a “Contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)” document, which lists their recent contributions to promoting DEI, as part of their promotion process. Life Sciences led with this practice in 2012.
  • recommending that Life Sciences’ departments decrease the weight of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) for admissions to their graduate programs, since research has shown that GRE scores are not predictive of a student’s future success, and disadvantage students from diverse backgrounds.

The DAC continues to meet regularly to discuss ways to further promote DEI in Life Sciences. DAC members include Life Sciences faculty, as well as post-doctoral scholar, graduate student, and undergraduate student representatives.

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Mentor Professor Initiative

With the guidance from its Diversity Advisory Committee, Life Sciences established its Mentor Professor Initiative in 2011. This division-wide recruitment strategy added new faculty who are outstanding scientists, known for their contributions to scientific research and also recognized for their commitment to mentoring students from diverse backgrounds. When launched, this hiring strategy was among the first of its kind. The mentor professor search strategy has now expanded to the David Geffen School of Medicine, the Samueli School of Engineering, and the School of Education and Information Studies– as well as to other schools in the UC system.

To date, Life Sciences has hired nearly a dozen mentor professors.

In 2014, Life Sciences led the launch of UCLA’s Center for Education, Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS) to systematically improve undergraduate science education at UCLA. Through CEILS workshops and trainings, instructors learn evidence-based teaching practices that promote inclusive student success. CEILS also facilitates important dialogues around inclusive education, bringing together and fostering a collaborative community of instructors who are committed to creating optimal learning experiences for the diversity of our students, who come from a broad range of cultural, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds.

In partnership with CEILS:

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Inclusive Excellence Institute: creating an academic culture of understanding

In 2015, in collaboration with CEILS, Life Sciences led the establishment of the Inclusive Excellence Institute (IEI), an annual, multi-day immersive workshop that helps science faculty understand how classroom climate and student identity (i.e. racial/social identity; LGBTQ/socioeconomic status) can adversely and inequitably affect student success in STEM. Faculty also learn how classes can be designed to be more culturally responsive, to foster inclusive student success.

You can read more about the IEI faculty workshops, here.

Curricular changes for inclusive student success

In partnership with CEILS, UCLA Life Sciences made fundamental improvements to its undergraduate curriculum–revamping core courses and creating a new career development course (LS 110)–that benefit all students, and especially transfer students. It also created entirely new, first-year math and statistics courses, better suited for Life Science majors. Compared with previously required math courses, the new math course, LS 30, has been shown to retain a greater proportion of women and underrepresented minorities in science.

In recognition of the many students who come from under-resourced high schools and the differences that creates in academic preparation, Life Sciences articulated alternative curricular pathways for biological science majors that provide incoming students with optional course pathways to ensure that all students start with a solid foundation.

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Out of the Box: an educational initiative to jumpstart a new era of teaching

In Fall 2020–as all classes started online, after months of racial reckoning–the Division of Life Sciences, in partnership with CEILS and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, established Out of the Box, an educational initiative that provided training and compensation for undergraduate instructors to get from “good enough” teaching to deliberate and inclusive teaching, tailored to the needs of our students.  In Winter 2021, Out of the Box was extended to faculty in Physical Sciences.

Here are some participant reflections:

“After a long lonely summer the teaching initiative felt like a great support like a fresh breeze. It inspired me to introduce a focus on Group Work for the Fall offering and enhance equitable learning modules. I was able to revisit strategies I already had implemented during summer and refine these. Furthermore I also learned about new strategies and tools, which I was able to adopt and try out for the fall offering.”

“…attending….was an important time for self-reflection and forced me to confront some harsh truths about systemic racism and the nature of microaggressions. It was eye-opening and oftentimes uncomfortable. But it helped me understand and appreciate the significant challenges that under-privileged and minoritized groups face on a daily basis.”

UCLA Life Sciences’ Anti-Racism Task Force

Life Sciences’ Anti-Racism Taskforce was assembled in August 2020 to provide Life Sciences with a foundation of understanding and recommendations to establish an anti-racist culture. Individual departments are taking the next steps and moving forward with actions.

Dialogues on Inclusive Excellence in the Biosciences

In January 2021, UCLA Life Sciences, in partnership with CEILS, launched Dialogues on Inclusive Excellence in the Biosciences– a space where our faculty, staff, graduate students and postdocs could learn, reflect, share and act to improve the climate for equity and inclusion within our life sciences community. The Dialogues center around a lecture series: A Call to Action–Striving Towards Inclusion in Academic Biology, sponsored by the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER). The lectures illuminate different barriers and pathways to inclusive success in academic biology. Through learning together, we hope to foster a community that can contribute to improving our climate of inclusion.