Baskin Engineering will lead regional hub of NSF Engineering PLUS Alliance to serve underrepresented students, faculty, and staff

Chancellor Larive and Prof Gomez sit and smile, with several people in the foreground

May 08, 2024

By Emily Cerf

Building on longstanding commitments to serve underrepresented academics in engineering, the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz has been selected to lead the inaugural Western regional hub for the Engineering PLUS Alliance. This National Sciences Foundation initiative aims to drive transformative, systemic and sustainable change for Black, Indigenous,  people of color (BIPOC), women, and non-binary people in STEM fields by creating a network of universities that can share resources, experiences, and best practices. 

Marcella Gomez, Baskin Engineering Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, spearheaded the university’s application for this designation and will continue to lead the initiative. Baskin Engineering professors Alvaro Cardenas, Pascale Garaud, Sri Kurniawan, and Ricardo Sanfelice will serve as co-principal investigators on the project

Engineering PLUS Alliance logo

This designation builds upon recent initiatives and priorities driven by Chancellor Cynthia Larive, a founding member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities, and adds onto the many programs and initiatives already in place across campus that support the success of students and faculty who historically have been underrepresented in higher education. These include efforts of the Hispanic-Serving Institution office; the work being done at the Teaching and Learning Center; participation in Cal-Bridge, the California Alliance for Minority Participation, and the NASEM Action Collaborative on transforming trajectories for women of color in tech; and the work done toward winning the Seal of Excelencia award

“The institutional readiness we’ve demonstrated has really built the foundation that allowed us to create a competitive proposal, and this is about engineering also putting in their contribution as part of that UCSC effort, and sending out the message that this is a top priority in the school of engineering,” Gomez said. “We have a lot of things that align, and it was such a natural fit and extension of everything we’re doing, but with an engineering focus — and I think that’s what we’re missing right now on campus.”

Chancellor Cynthia Larive called the designation an “honor and a recognition of the incredible work taking place at Baskin Engineering and throughout the university as a whole to ensure that our student body resembles the diversity of the population of California as a whole. UC Santa Cruz prides itself on providing educational access to those traditionally underserved by higher education. Directing the western hub of the alliance allows us to take a further leadership role in this national push to expand educational opportunities for the next generation of scientific leaders.”

Within Baskin Engineering, this initiative builds on investment in the DEI space, which has included recent expansion of the DEI office to bring on a Director of DEI and initiate a recruitment for a faculty and staff coordinator, in addition to the appointment of program assistant Richard Raygoza. Programs within Baskin Engineering such as MESABaskin Engineering Excellence Scholarsthe UCSC Genomics Institute’s diversity initiatives, and more are all founded on advancing student success and attainment. Baskin Engineering was recognized for achievement in DEI by the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) Diversity Recognition Program in its inaugural year; and this designation was reconfirmed in 2023.

“We were honored to have been selected by our counterparts at Northeastern University to lead this effort and are excited to be joining their pioneering efforts to build a growing national agenda. The network we establish through this important initiative will allow Baskin Engineering and UCSC to continue to be at the forefront in making positive, measurable change for our region that will broaden pathways into engineering and build strength, resilience, and innovation within our engineering education communities,” said Alexander Wolf, Dean of the Baskin School of Engineering. “And beyond serving our region, our Baskin Engineering community itself will be strengthened through new collaborations and the insights we will gain from them.” 

Baskin Engineering leadership have already established collaboration with about 20 universities and research centers in the Western U.S., including all of the other eight UCs with undergraduate programs, and are planning to recruit more. 

As the hub leaders, Baskin Engineering will form collective working groups with the collaborating institutions, which will be centered on undergraduate student success, graduate student success, workforce development, and climate and culture for faculty and staff. They will host professional development webinars, convenings, and other events in collaboration with project partners, students, and industry, and publish articles to share best practices and outcomes from these conferences and events. 

“Our collective knowledge is much greater than our individual knowledge,” Gomez said. “We want to find ways to increase communication, align our efforts, and create opportunities for collaboration.”

The Western regional hub will also collaborate closely with the other regional hubs across the country, which are all led out of Northeastern University and include the New England and Midwest regional hubs as well as the All Nations hub. The latter is being established at the same time as UCSC’s Western hub and will focus on issues faced by students from Indigenous and local communities. Together, this network can help address challenges presented by attempts to dismantle DEI programs at public colleges and universities throughout the country. 

Back at UCSC, the hub’s leaders will be collaborating with the Innovation & Business Engagement Hub and the Baskin Engineering corporate development team to reach out to industry partners who will add strength and depth to the network.

Senior staff personnel involved with this effort include Associate Director of Teaching at the Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning Nandini Bhattacharya, Baskin Engineering Career Engagement Specialist Erin Busch, Baskin Engineering Executive Advisor to the Dean Abigail Kaun, and Office of Research Education Grants and Evaluation Specialist Cindy Ziker.

Last modified: May 23, 2024