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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence

We need all voices to bring just solutions to the world’s critical environmental problems, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution.

Academia and the relatively new job markets in environmental fields have evolved within systems that have historically excluded some groups and privileged others. Failures to value and listen to all voices have created barriers to participation in solving environmental problems and environmental injustices. At the Bren School, we believe there is no place for inequality and discrimination in our work. The Bren School's ultimate goal is to be a vibrant, inclusive, and safe community where diversity of our students, staff, and faculty amplifies our ability to solve environmental problems. 

We must continuously translate our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence into action and accountability. In Fall 2019, we began a strategic planning process for diversity, equity, and inclusion. This process recognizes that recruitment of diverse students, faculty, and staff requires fostering an inclusive environment, that environmental solutions require an environmental justice lens, and that true excellence in research, teaching, and service requires a culture of inclusion.

Our goal is to dismantle barriers to inclusion by structuring recruitment, admissions, and support to reduce bias and by addressing institutional barriers. Some elements of the strategic plan will institutionalize well-established practices of the Bren School; others will be new ideas. And we recognize that each action we take is a step in a continuous process of improvement, feedback, evaluation, reflection, and progress. 

Distance shot of students sitting on stone benches

Inclusive Recruitment, Admissions, and Support

The Bren School aims to provide an intellectually rich, socially just, and equitable educational environment. Together with the California Consortium for Inclusive Doctoral Education (C-CIDE), we have been leading the UCSB campus in developing strategies for recruiting, admitting, and mentoring graduate students from diverse backgrounds.

We have adopted a holistic admissions review process to help counter implicit bias, expanded recruitment efforts at institutions that serve under-represented students, and conducted yearly climate surveys to uncover and understand problems. Academic, financial, and community support for diverse students is as important as recruitment and admissions. In addition to donor support, the Bren School directs financial aid from professional degree supplemental tuition (PDST) to support students who contribute to diversity. We invest in training on anti-racism, inclusive classrooms, and supporting LGBTQ+ students and colleagues.

Although there is much more to be done, our combined efforts on recruitment and support have begun to help us develop a more diverse student body. Domestic under-represented students have increased from a 3-year average of 11% to 15% in the most recent class. This diversity is enhanced by international students.

Addressing Institutional Barriers

We are committed to building a staff and faculty that is reflective of and responsive to the demographics of California and our students. Knowledge of diverse perspectives, methodological assumptions, traditions of training, and racial and cultural backgrounds facilitates problem-solving, creativity, innovative scholarship, and effective teaching. We know that increasing recruitment of women in STEM and BIPOC faculty requires not just equitable faculty search processes, but also disciplinary expansiveness, resources to support diverse faculty, and building a pipeline of PhD graduates from under-represented groups. Recruitment and support of diverse faculty has begun to produce more gender balance in our faculty, and we must find ways to also recruit and support more BIPOC faculty. 

Bren students have been a resonant voice of positive change, not just in the sectors they eventually work in or the causes they back, but here at the Bren School and on our UCSB campus. The role of Bren leadership is to listen, educate ourselves, build viable strategies, and enact those strategies in a timely and effective way. We value student feedback in our pursuit of inclusive excellence and in everything we do. At the Bren School, students have opportunities to become involved in governance. Most Bren committees, including the Diversity Committee, the Masters Curriculum Committee, and the PhD Program Committee, have one or more student representatives. Students themselves run the Bren Seminar Committee and the PhD and MESM Dean’s Advisory Committees. In these roles, they contribute their voices to governance and problem-solving.

Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a critical element of the solutions Bren students and researchers are developing. We directly experience environmental justice as the intersection of social justice and environmental science and management through Bren student Group Projects. Via Group Projects, students have helped agencies in resource-poor countries enact sustainable fishing practices while maintaining economic viability for small fisheries the communities depend upon. They have evaluated how to balance ecosystem degradation and agriculture in rural Rwanda, and tracked the correlation between air pollution and diabetes in low income, marginalized communities. Group projects have also identified how Caribbean economies can preserve reef ecosystems in balance with tourism income, or how climate change has impacted the water reservoirs for Santa Barbara County.

In addition to elective courses in the curriculum, Bren provides Environmental Justice Student Research Scholarships to facilitate participation in research. And Bren students run an Environmental Justice Club, which hosts an annual Environmental Justice Symposium that showcases research from Bren and beyond, advises Group Projects on incorporating environmental justice, and offers field learning opportunities. 

Sarah Anderson

Support at the Highest Level

In 2019, Dean Steven Gaines appointed Professor Sarah Anderson as the inaugural Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. “Professor Anderson is an accomplished scholar, an award-winning teacher, and has a track record for leadership that has produced a more diverse and inclusive student body and faculty,” said Dean Gaines. “She is a champion for diversity whose
collaborative and pragmatic approach has increased the number of women faculty and increased underrepresented minorities in the student body.” The role of the Associate Dean is to work with the Bren community to recruit and retain diverse faculty, increase diversity among Bren School Master’s and PhD students, and create a culture of inclusion.

Dr. Anderson leads efforts to ensure that research, teaching, and service at the Bren School involves and empowers all communities. As Associate Dean, her initiatives include faculty search committee trainings on reducing bias in search practices, developing a school-wide Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, engaging with Associate Deans across the university to enhance inclusive excellence, and supporting student engagement in environmental justice.

Dr. Anderson has also focused her campus-wide leadership on efforts to improve diversity. She has served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, the Chancellor’s Search Advisory Committee for the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Chancellor’s Task Force on Childcare, and the Graduate Council. In these roles, Dr. Anderson has used her voice to support making UCSB a campus where diverse students, faculty, and staff thrive and led efforts to improve data availability and transparency.  

Sarah Anderson was appointed Assistant Professor at the Bren School in 2007 after earning a PhD in Political Science and MA in Economics at Stanford University, as well as a BS in Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the coauthor of Rejecting Compromise: Legislators’ Fear of Primary Voters (2020, Cambridge University Press).

Graduate Student Resources

Graduate Division Diversity Resources: List of campus resources, cultural centers, and student organizations

UCSB Distressed Students Guide: Instructions and resources for responding to incidents of hate, violence, potential violence, hazing, interpersonal violence or sexual assault. Resources for mental health, substance abuse, and disability needs.

Additional Resources for Current Students: Campus resources for mental health, basic needs, housing and more as well as information and guidance regarding safety for our Bren community.

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