University Of California San Diego Hires New Faculty To Bridge Black Studies And STEM

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) will be bringing in 13 new, tenure-track faculty members who will connect Black studies with STEM subjects.

Diverse Education reports three hires have already been announced and three more have been made during a time when many universities and companies across the country are struggling to hire diverse talent.

The first three hires by UCSD are neurobiologist Dr. Hiruy Meharena, computer scientist Dr. Imani N.S. Munyaka, and chemist Dr. Lisa Jones.

UCSD’s DEI Chancellor, Dr. Becky Petit told Diverse Education this cluster of hires focuses on diversifying its Black faculty over the next two years. UCSD is also working on a cluster of Latinx talent.

“The important part about our approach to diversifying faculty is that we are being very intentional and clear about why we are doing this,” Petitt said.

“A diverse faculty is about institutional excellence. It improves teaching and learning for all students. And substantial research shows that diversity helps us solve big, complex challenges because you are bringing multidisciplinary, multi-background lenses together. This is all part of our comprehensive strategic plan for inclusive excellence.”

Jones who is slated to join the university later this summer, as the chancellor’s associate’s endowed chair in chemistry and biochemistry, said she was attracted to the university because it gave her the unusual opportunity to teach courses about health disparities that link STEM subjects to Black studies.

“When I was an undergraduate focused on STEM, my plan was to minor in African American Studies, so when I heard about this program, I thought I would have loved that as a student,” said Jones, who added that about half of UCSD undergraduates minoring in African American Studies also major in STEM. “I think these kinds of programs are important for students today.”

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic brought public health and its racial disparities to the forefront as Black Americans were twice as likely to be infected and die from the virus than White Americans.

New hires at UCSD will be funded in part by a $500,000 grant the university received from the University of California’s Advancing Faculty Diversity Program. According to Petit, the grant has helped recruit more STEM talent which could be costly for universities.


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