New center for educational access and diversity will offer faculty incentives for outreach activities

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs


aponte, gray

Greg Aponte, left, professor of nutritional science and adviser for the new Faculty Center for Leadership in Educational Access and Diversity, discussed the center’s future role with Executive Vice Chancellor amd Provost Paul Gray.
Peg Skorpinski photo

02 May 2001 | A new Faculty Center for Leadership in Educational Access and Diversity will open its doors July 1 as another in a set of recommendations endorsed by Chancellor Berdahl to promote campus diversity.

The new center — three years in the making — will address development and implementation of programs to make the campus more accessible to all seeking higher education in California, said Greg Aponte, an associate professor of nutritional science and toxicology in the College of Natural Resources, who has served in an advisory capacity during the center’s creation.

“It’s very difficult to get involved in activities related to educational access because the faculty are already over-engaged and there aren’t any career incentives involved,” Aponte said. “This center, which was conceived by the Academic Senate, will help facilitate faculty participation in research directed at removing educational barriers in their fields of expertise.”

The center will provide material incentives, both in the form of graduate student support as well as mini-grants, to support faculty and graduate student research, and engage Berkeley academics, as well as their colleagues from other UC campuses, state and community colleges, in center-sponsored symposia and workshops.

Berdahl concurred with the necessity for these incentives in a letter to the Academic Senate after completion of the center’s feasibility study.

“We recognize that there is a very real skepticism on the part of some faculty concerning the ability of the campus and its departments to adjust to the changes that will be needed to ensure that faculty efforts within the center are judged as equivalent to the research and service functions now used to assess faculty performance and to make decisions on promotions,” the chancellor wrote.

“In our view, these ‘cultural’ changes and a commitment to an academically and politically free environment are absolutely necessary if the center concept is to have a reasonable chance to achieve the level of excellence Berkeley has every right to expect,” the chancellor wrote.

The goals of the center, as charted by the Academic Senate, are to foster a student body that is representative of the rich cultural, social, and ethnic diversity of California’s population and to foster the excellence in achievement that leads to graduation and postgraduate education.

“That mission is driven by the recognition that youth from various ethnic and cultural groups and families with little history of educational achievement are likely to experience barriers to achievement that, in practice, seriously limit their range of aspirations and, thus, the contributions they will make to furthering our society,” Aponte said.

The center’s activities will focus the creativity of Berkeley faculty to develop ways to remove these barriers. Staff will help identify and assist students with the potential for success in higher education.

Generally, center activities will fall into three categories: research, teaching and service.

Participating faculty will be able to address research questions in their own fields, but also develop, implement and evaluate programs addressing educational issues. New interdisciplinary research in areas where no current programs exist, as well as areas that will benefit from additional research, may be supported with faculty mini-grants.

Research topics might include research to advance minorities through the Ph.D. and beyond or an ongoing research project at Berkeley High School focusing on reducing the gap in student achievement, which could be expanded to schools in the Oakland Unified School District.

In addition to support for faculty, the center will provide research and training opportunities for students and educators.

A major part of the more traditional teaching effort would fall under the proposed Graduate Group in Discipline-based Teaching Research, which would be comprised of faculty from the humanities, sciences and social sciences. This discipline-based research would allow graduate students to focus their expertise on studies of educational issues that are relevant to their own disciplines.

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