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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Shaping the Future of Higher Education: Practical, Community-Driven Initiatives to Improve Academic Climate.

  • Author(s): Stachl, Christiane N
  • Brauer, Daniel D
  • Mizuno, Hikaru
  • Gleason, Jamie M
  • Rorrer, Julie E
  • Francis, Matthew B
  • Baranger, Anne M
  • et al.

Historically, efforts to improve academic climate have been siloed-many efforts involve the collection of data to understand issues affecting diversity at an institutional level, while others prioritize recruitment and retention of historically marginalized groups. Few initiatives, however, effectively combine the two in order to create concrete action plans to eliminate structural barriers that hinder the retention of minorities in STEM. In this Editorial, we present the history and details of a collaborative effort to improve the academic climate of the Department of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley. This initiative began in 2016 as a graduate student-led, grassroots movement to develop a method to assess the department's academic climate. Over the past several years-and with support from stakeholders at all levels-it has grown into a department-wide effort to systematically collect data, exchange ideas, and implement goal-oriented interventions to make our academic community more inclusive. With the recent development of a five-year strategic plan and funding increase to provide financial support for student-led programs, we have institutionalized a method to maintain the initiative's momentum. Here, we share our approaches, insights, and perspectives from community members who have shaped this movement. We also provide advice to help other academic communities determine a practical path toward affecting positive cultural change.

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