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Student Diversity Q & A's

Student Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Engineering
Questions and Answers

Q: I’ve heard the CUES programs have been eliminated. Is this true?
A: No, absolutely not. Student diversity programs are extremely important to the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley. In fact, our diversity programs are being strengthened under a reorganization of the College’s student services. Programs managed by the College’s Center for Underrepresented Engineering Students (CUES) will continue to operate in a new unit, Engineering Student Services. This move consolidates the College’s programs in student recruitment and retention into one office.

We are taking this direction to make better use of the resources and staffing we devote to attracting and supporting exemplary engineering students while also increasing the diversity of our student population. In fact, we want to address an urgent need to boost our enrollments of students from underrepresented groups.

A significant part of the new ESS office will be devoted expressly to student diversity and inclusion programs. In addition to existing programs, we will be launching new programs in experiential learning, such as internships, research opportunities, and other inclusive group activities. A faculty-student task force on student diversity and inclusion will guide these initiatives.

Q: Did the College do this because of the budget crisis?
A: No. The reorganization is NOT a cost-cutting measure. In fact, we are seeking exceptions from the campuswide hiring freeze to fill three new positions: the Director of Engineering Student Services (position approved and now posted) and two Student Affairs Officers (positions undergoing review) devoted primarily to diversity and inclusion programs. The staff count in the reorganized ESS office is roughly the same as the staff count in the old Engineering Student Affairs and CUES offices combined, taking into account some recent voluntary departures on the part of both Student Affairs and CUES staff.

Q: Isn’t a stand-alone program better for underrepresented students?
A: We’ve been concerned for some time by our low numbers of underrepresented and women students relative to our peers. From 2005 to 2009, we saw a steady and dramatic decline in the number of our entering underrepresented minority students, from 62 to 37 – a drop of more than 40 percent in five years. Underrepresented minority students declined from 10.4 percent of our fall 2005 freshman class to just 6.2 percent of our fall 2009 class. Most of this decrease is due to lower yields among applicants offered admission. Our yield figures with women students are also trending downward.

Our goal is not to diminish recruitment and retention programs that address gender and ethnic diversity, but rather to expand our ability to deliver them well. The new organizational structure allows us to devote more staff resources to this imperative, especially in improving yield. Our entire advising staff will focus on developmental services that promote academic success: targeted student recruitment; undergraduate research, internships, and other experiential learning; and related programs that enable each member of our diverse student body to lead and excel.

Q: What led up to the decision to reorganize?
A: The decision to integrate CUES and our student advising into Engineering Student Services came after two years of thoughtful examination of the College’s performance in 1) effectively recruiting and retaining engineering students; and 2) delivering high-quality advising and related student services. College advisory boards had been recommending for some time that we consider a unified approach to recruiting, advising, and preparing students for leadership roles in society. This message was delivered to Deans Richard Newton, Fiona Doyle, and Shankar Sastry over the period 2005–09.

Q: Were CUES staff consulted prior to the decision?
A: CUES staff participated in these advisory board meetings. Subsequently, in spring 2009 we held nearly 70 interviews with College and campus leaders, faculty, students, and staff – including the CUES staff – as well as their counterparts at other UC engineering colleges and programs for underrepresented students. We also conducted an extensive examination of published information. We recognize that some staff members are not happy with this decision to consolidate, but we stand by our conviction that it is in the best interests of our students.

Q: Were CUES students consulted prior to the decision?
A: We held two roundtables with all interested student leaders as well as one-on-one interviews with students, including several suggested by the CUES staff. We also relied extensively on the quantitative University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) gauging levels of satisfaction with the undergraduate educational experience, including advising and mentoring programs. The integration seeks to address a number of issues identified by this fact-finding.

Q: Tell us, specifically, what will happen to:

  • Pre-Engineering Program (PREP)
    Two-week intensive preparation for incoming freshmen
  • Charles Tunstall Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP)  
    Academic support for undergraduates and recruitment of Berkeley engineering students, including prospective high school and community college students
  • Julia Morgan Engineering Program (JMEP) 
    Supporting and celebrating women through the stages of a Berkeley Engineering education
  • Graduate Academic Diversity (GrAD) Program
    Encouraging students to continue education towards graduate school
  • Summer Undergraduate Program in Engineering Research at Berkeley (SUPERB)
    Summer research at UC Berkeley

A: These programs are continuing under the reorganization. They are not going away.

Q: Will underrepresented students still get individual attention?
A: We recognize the importance of offering culturally sensitive programs – in fact, research in this area pinpoints some key factors in promoting academic success in a context of gender and ethnic diversity:

  • Significant peer-to-peer involvement, all the way from recruitment through degree completion
  • Opportunities for undergraduates to pursue research year-round, not just during summer
  • Leadership development
  • Student learning centers

These will be core components of our integrated program.

Q: How will graduate students be affected?
A: During this transition, we are evaluating our graduate student programs to determine the most effective organization to host them. We will continue to work as we have been with the College’s seven academic departments, which individually manage graduate admissions and programs. We do foresee an even stronger role for our student groups in graduate student recruitment.

Q: Are staff positions being eliminated?
A: We have concluded that the best staff match for our student advising and mentoring responsibilities is the Student Affairs Officer job family. We have secured exceptions to the campuswide hiring freeze to recruit new positions in this job family. The current CUES staff, whose current Academic Coordinator contracts end in September, have been encouraged to apply for these positions as well as the director position in ESS.

Q: How is the transition being carried out? Will students have a say?
A: The transition is being led by Executive Associate Dean Masayoshi Tomizuka, with the help of Kristen Gates, interim director of Engineering Student Services. Recruitment of an executive director for ESS is underway. They will be assisted by a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion now being convened by Dean Shankar Sastry and chaired by EECS Professor Ruzena Bajcsy, a distinguished NAE member with an extensive record of leadership in matters of diversity and inclusion at the national level. The task force includes professors with a track record in broadening participation of underrepresented groups in engineering. Representatives will be invited from student groups such as the following:

  • Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • Women in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (WICSE)
  • Graduate Women of Engineering (GWE)
  • Hispanic Engineers and Scientists (HES)
  • Latino(a) Association for Graduate Students in Engineering and Science (LAGSES)
  • Black Engineering and Science Students Association (BESSA)
  • Black Graduate Engineering and Science Students (BGESS)
  • American Indian Graduate Science and Engineering Society (AIGSES)
  • Others to be identified

The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force is charged with:

  • Addressing the decline of minority and women undergraduates in the College.
  • Increasing the number of minority and women graduate students in the College.
  • Creating a strategy for outreach to increase diversity of applicants to the College.
  • Examining needs of other underserved groups such as low income students, disabled students, and LGBT students.
  • Advising the COE faculty on applying innovative pedagogy to achieve inclusive classroom educational experiences.
  • Adopting a strategy for improving the diversity of COE faculty.

 


Comments and suggestions are welcome at dean_sastry@coe.berkeley.edu.