Diversity and Inclusion: Preparing students for a global society

UCI has always been steadfast in its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, and this past year has been one of opportunity and advancement, particularly for students. Diversity on college campuses is critical in enabling students to achieve excellence and gain competitive advantages in the 21st-century global economy. 

With that in mind, UCI is focused on developing an educational community that is highly qualified and diverse with respect to class, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, race, life experiences, and more. To further that effort, UCI in January 2016 established the Office of Inclusive Excellence, which is dedicated to providing campus accountability, training and educating, conducting responsive research, and building and sustaining partnerships.

“I’m extremely proud of the work our faculty and staff have done to deepen students’ personal growth and help them achieve their goals while establishing an environment that is both supportive and affirmative,” said Enrique Lavernia, provost and executive vice chancellor. “The programs, dialogue and training have advanced our campus as a global model for inclusion.”

Just recently, the U.S. Department of Education designated UCI an Asian American & Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution. This designation not only reflects the diversity of UCI’s undergraduate population and the surrounding communities, but also enhances the university’s reputation as a national leader in providing affordable education to first-generation and low-income families. UCI is the only UC campus – and the first member of the Association of American Universities – to possess this distinction. We are also closing in on becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with Latinos representing 25 percent of the student body.

In addition, our academic programs have progressed in inclusive excellence. UCI established African American studies as a full-fledged department within the School of Humanities, with a dedicated faculty, staff, budget and structure. The Academic Senate also revised the learning outcomes for the campus’s general education multicultural studies requirement, which will better equip students to live and thrive in a remarkably diverse society and world.

UCI understands that inclusion is more than enrolling a diverse student body. The university has allocated resources to provide social and emotional support for minority and first-generation students. There are also programs in place for safe zone training; sexual harassment and campus assault prevention; and educating students, faculty, staff and leadership on how to be supportive of diversity.

Looking to future efforts, UCI is piloting a (De)Constructing Diversity Initiative, modeled after its successful Olive Tree Initiative, to foster improved interracial understanding. Through classroom study and fieldwork, students of all races and ethnicities will be exposed to history and events that have shaped the lives, beliefs and attitudes of people unlike themselves.

“We have made a lot of progress, but there is always more to do to ensure we have a campus that not only attracts talented young people from our state, nation and world, but also provides an environment that is supportive and affirmative,” Lavernia said. “As members of the Anteater family, we should work together as global citizens to make the breakthrough advances that enact positive change in our world.”