Tsu-Jae King Liu

Tsu-Jae King Liu, the chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley, was ready to make a plan for a more inclusive and welcoming department.

Case Study Highlights

THE CATALYST MOMENT

The department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) partnered with the Division of Equity & Inclusion to create a strategic plan that sets a course for continued effort and innovation on these issues.

BEST PRACTICES

  • Engage a broad range of departmental stakeholders.
  • Ensure leadership from the department chair and other leaders.
  • Ground the department’s goal-setting process in a thorough review of existing data and approaches.
  • Leave room for innovation and revision.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Ensure that departmental diversity planning is a collaborative effort that is not seen as only the purview of those who already have expertise or official roles in these areas.
  • For some departments, taking a broad view that looks beyond simple demographics can be challenging, particularly at the outset of the planning process.
  • Concrete goal-setting and new strategy development are crucial parts of the planning process.

WHAT'S NEXT

  • The EECS department will continue to implement and expand its diversity efforts.

As chair of Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) department, Professor Tsu-Jae King Liu and her colleagues are seeking to change the norms around diversity in a discipline long challenged by racial and gender disparities. EECS is one of Berkeley’s largest and fastest-growing departments. At a time when the popular tech sector is under fire for a lack of diversity in its workforce and many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are struggling to recruit and retain women and underrepresented minorities, Liu and her colleagues have been looking at the department’s demographics and history and pursuing new possibilities for a more inclusive future.

When Liu joined the department as an assistant professor in 1996, she was one of only five women faculty in a department of 75. Despite strong and longstanding efforts to increase departmental diversity — in terms of both gender and ethnicity — through 2010, the department’s faculty and student populations of women ranged from 10-15 percent, with less than 5 percent of the department coming from underrepresented minority groups (African American, Chicano/Latino, and Native American/Alaska Native).

In 2011, the department partnered with Berkeley’s Division of Equity & Inclusion on a new strategic planning initiative to improve these numbers and to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment.

The Planning Process

Berkeley’s departmental strategic planning initiative for equity, inclusion, and diversity began in 2011, and now supports all academic and administrative units. As part of this initiative, each unit conducts its own strategic planning process, drawing on data support, self-assessment tools, and goal-setting assistance from the Division of Equity & Inclusion.

The team’s first step was looking at data. In addition to analyzing the racial/ethnic and gender composition of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, the department conducted student surveys about departmental climate and reviewed information about outreach, admission, yield, and hiring trends.

The planning team also looked to other units on campus, peer institutions, and the broader STEM field for best practices. They reviewed the work of student diversity and leadership groups within EECS and the Berkeley College of Engineering and took stock of the department’s many undergraduate, graduate, and K-12 outreach efforts to see which were most — and least — effective. Key priorities that emerged included undergraduate diversity, expanded graduate outreach, faculty recruitment and hiring, and departmental climate.

Compared to 2009, almost twice as many underrepresented minorities and three times as many women choose EECS majors.

As a result of its planning efforts, the department has started two new outreach and onboarding programs for undergraduates, refocused its precollegiate recruitment approaches, and enhanced its fundraising efforts for diversity programming.

Graduate student diversity and climate have also improved. Key efforts include partnering with Berkeley EDGE, a campus conference that encourages competitively eligible underrepresented minority students in the science, technology, math, and engineering fields to apply to Berkeley Ph.D. programs, as well as several summer research experiences for undergraduates.

Along with a transformation in programming and climate, the EECS department has also begun to see a shift in its undergraduate diversity numbers. From 2009-2014, while the total number of students majoring in EECS or computer sciences grew by 80 percent, the number of underrepresented minority students more than doubled and the number of women almost tripled. In the fall 2015 semester, record high percentages of women and underrepresented minority students entered the EECS major program.

Finally, the past few hiring cycles have yielded a significant number of diverse new faculty members. Counting the new hires in 2015-16, there have been six new women (out of a group of 21 new hires) added to the EECS faculty since 2010, thanks in large part to an effort to actively identify and contact diverse rising stars in EECS and to follow best practices in recruitment and hiring.

To Liu, this is just the sort of departmental transformation that students and others should seek out and anticipate as normal. “In engineering people have to work together in teams to succeed, and when our students think about collaboration, they should expect it to be natural that there’s diversity,” she said. “Society is diverse, so you should expect the people you deal with here to be diverse. And if we make it clear that we all have shared goals to make a difference in this world and that we’re all part of a diverse community…we’ll be better able to serve a diverse society.”

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  Data and Strategic Planning
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