“In an age when the challenges to affirmative action mount and the political commitment to ensuring diversity is being whittled away by referenda and court challenges, I will engage our campus in finding new ways to reflect the rich ethnic, racial, cultural and socio-economic tapestry of our state — African American, Native American, Latino, documented, and undocumented alike, among us — at every level and in every part of the university.”

— Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks in his inaugural address

Here at the University of California, Berkeley, we’ve intentionally shifted from the typical “diversity crisis” response mode commonly seen in higher education to instead take a proactive approach to campus diversity and inclusion. We apply what we call the “diversity catalyst” model to create positive change in the university.

Bringing the Diversity Catalyst Model to Life

Simply desiring a more equitable and inclusive campus does not create change. Five elements provide the foundation for Berkeley’s success with the diversity catalyst model:


Berkeley will work with its partners to make the campus a reflection of the state of California at every level of our community: students, faculty, and staff. That means that all of us can have the opportunity to work and study side-by-side with people from different backgrounds and life experiences. Hardworking, talented students are able to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way so they have a fair shot at a Berkeley education. And hardworking, talented staff and faculty find Berkeley to be a community where their contributions are welcome and respected.

We do this work because education has the power to transform individuals, institutions, and the world. If we succeed, Berkeley will be a national leader, as well as a global leader, in higher education by preparing students, staff, and faculty to become global citizens.


Leadership from the very top of the campus administration is imperative in the diversity catalyst model. In his inauguration address in 2005, then-Chancellor Robert Birgeneau affirmed the campus’s commitment by stating, “UC Berkeley has always been motivated by serving the public good, and I see no higher ideal than working for equity and inclusion for all.”

In 2006, Berkeley faculty and the administration designed the mission and structure of Berkeley’s first Division of Equity & Inclusion. In 2007, Gibor Basri, distinguished professor of astrophysics, became the division’s founding vice chancellor, as well as the first vice chancellor for diversity in the University of California system.


A strategic plan must be at the core of the diversity catalyst model. Without one, universities are prone to operating in a reactive diversity crisis model, without the necessary strategies and resources to create and sustain positive change. That is why, upon his appointment as vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, Gibor Basri said that his first task would be to create a diversity strategic plan — one that would encompass the entire campus community — faculty, students, and staff. The resulting plan is driven by three core strategies and accompanying metrics:

  • Responsive Research, Teaching, and Public Service
  • Expanded Pathways for Access and Success
  • Engaging and Healthy Campus Climate 

With this strategic plan in place, Berkeley could then design the infrastructure needed to support such an ambitious plan, develop a fundraising plan, and build collaborations with campus and community partners.

Download the Plan


The Division of Equity & Inclusion is the home base for Berkeley’s diversity catalyst model. Headed by the vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, the division has a solid and nimble infrastructure to support existing programs and new innovations through expert advice, counsel, and best practices, including many of the ones described in this report.

The division serves numerous programs that support and advocate for undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows; promote staff and faculty diversity and equity; and open doors to a four-year college degree for low-income and first-generation high school and community college students. In addition, with the philanthropic support of the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the division founded the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, the research arm of our efforts.


Berkeley harnesses the power of partnership both on and off campus. Rather than a “go-it-alone” attitude, we prefer to show our partners what is possible and to give them the tools to catalyze change.

We believe partnership is a constant force in the diversity catalyst model. Even though the division provides infrastructure and support, our work isn’t isolated to one office, to one floor, or to one building on campus. Because everyone has a stake in diversity, our work is purposefully spread across campus departments and beyond. We believe that all students, faculty, and staff have the power to transform Berkeley into a community where opportunity is both valued and practiced.

Learn more about the philanthropic organizations that made this work and report possible.