30 for 30 Profile: UC-Irvine Stacey Nicholas Office of Access & Inclusion
The University of California, Irvine’s Stacey Nicholas Office of Access & Inclusion (OAI) is a joint office between the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, created in 2014 to recruit, retain, and graduate talented students from historically excluded populations who are currently underrepresented in engineering and information and computer sciences.
Dr. Gregory Diggs-Yang is the OAI Assistant Director. His predecessor Sharnia Artis founded the office, whose collaborative efforts demonstrate that both schools share a commitment to inclusion and access in engineering and computer science. Diggs-Yang credits Artis, who is currently serving as Chief Diversity Office at George Mason University, with establishing a strong foundation and models for success. Part of her planning was to join WEPAN in order to make sure the office was connected to communities and networks supporting the same efforts OAI is focused on.
Diggs-Yang, who had heard of WEPAN during his time as an evaluator with the Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) at the University of Washington, says that being a WEPAN member is extremely beneficial to the office.
“Through membership, we can communicate with different universities to promote programming and exchange ideas, share open positions, and learn about conference and workshop opportunities. The chance to utilize these resources is invaluable.”
The OAI is dedicated to providing support for all underrepresented minority students, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and its services include free tutoring, academic success workshops, programs designed to help freshmen and transfer-students with their transition from high school or community college to the university, and programs designed to help students who are on academic probation to get back into good academic standing with the university. There are several fellowships available for master’s programs, which traditionally don’t provide funding in the same way Ph.D. programs do. The fellowships also provide mentoring and support. There is also a DECADE Mentors program, which is committed to fostering an inclusive environment within UCI's graduate programs to promote diversity within the graduate student population campuswide.
The OAI also works to provide support at the faculty level. The Equity Advisor program has senior faculty members participating in faculty recruiting by approving search strategies and raising awareness of best practices, organizing faculty development programs, with both formal and informal mentoring, and addressing individual issues raised by women and underrepresented minority faculty.
The office has grown since its inception, going from one person to a team of individuals, and is now a regularly relied upon office. Future goals include more collaborations with HBCUs and continuing to address challenges related to COVID (for example, OAI’s tutoring services are currently being offered in both virtual and in person formats).
Diggs-Yang sees the OAI as a helpful tool for the UC-Irvine community. “Our office is dedicated to supporting our students, faculty, and staff. It’s helpful for them to know there’s a central location they can visit, with experts who are continuously thinking about how to support and address issues of diversity, access, and inclusion.”