- Faculty members with diverse perspectives are needed to solve serious problems
- Those issues, dubbed “wicked problems,” include the UC Davis Grand Challenges
- Hiring will continue to be overseen by colleges and departments
UC Davis is embracing the philosophy that the world’s most serious problems can be solved only by people with a wide variety of perspectives, and is encouraging colleges and schools all over campus to infuse their recruitments for new faculty members with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
The ensuing new faculty members, 100 to start with, will bring their diverse and transdisciplinary approaches to bear on UC Davis’ Grand Challenges — serious problems that include sustainable food systems, reimagining the land grant university, climate crisis and emerging health threats.
“At UC Davis, we recognize that only by bringing diverse researchers and scholars together can we solve society’s greatest challenges and build a stronger, more equitable future,” said Chancellor Gary S. May.
The Grand Challenges program is designed to encourage transdisciplinary collaboration around complex and intractable issues, dubbed “wicked problems” by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, which is organizing the new recruiting push. That term has been used in numerous fields since the 1970s, and describes problems that often do not have a single solution, Michael Rios, vice provost of Public Scholarship and Engagement, wrote in the International Journal of Community Well-Being last year, noting how the term has evolved.
“Today, many of the issues associated with wicked problems remain, while new ones have emerged based on an increased understanding of the interconnectedness of social and ecological systems,” he wrote.
As always, colleges and schools will oversee the hiring process, but they’ll now get extra outreach help from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which promotes UC Davis to potential new faculty members at conferences and other events.
New marketing materials
They’ll be armed with freshly designed marketing materials and facts about ways UC Davis is committed to promoting diverse viewpoints — like the current faculty members with whom job candidates can speak in confidence during the hiring process, and the fact that all applicants for faculty jobs must list their past, present and future contributions to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Researchers ask the best questions and arrive at the best answers for our most challenging problems when we approach them from diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and disciplines,” Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan said. “Hiring diverse faculty who are committed to solving wicked problems is the hallmark of this critical hiring initiative.”
The university has a long history of encouraging diverse perspectives among faculty members: UC Davis is believed to be one of the first universities to train faculty search committees to be aware of their own implicit biases, starting in 2011. The following year, the National Science Foundation awarded a $3.7 million, five-year ADVANCE grant to UC Davis aimed at increasing the participation of women, especially Latinas, in academic STEM careers: science, technology, engineering and math.
That grant led to the expansion of anti-bias workshops for search committees, along with the creation of Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science, or CAMPOS, which is now part of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; that office was created in 2018.
“UC Davis has a rich history of recruiting and supporting faculty members who bring a broad spectrum of perspectives and experiences, and we know that our university will continue to be strengthened by the presence of the new faculty who will join us,” said Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “I remember my first faculty position [at another university] and how important it was for me as an African American woman in science and engineering to feel welcomed by my colleagues, and comfortable in my new town. I want all of our new, incoming faculty to be excited about being at home at UC Davis.”
She cited the benefits of recruiting initiatives and campus retention centers, as well as efforts overseen by her office, like the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, or CAMPSSAH, and Avanza, the name UC Davis has given to the ongoing initiative focused on achieving federal status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
UC Davis’ long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and will continue long after these 100 faculty members have been hired, said Laura Cerruti, chief impact officer in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“I don’t see the need for this going away,” Cerruti said. “In order to make progress, we need to take bold steps like this one, and then sustain the effort over time.”
Adding more faculty members with unique perspectives also furthers a goal of the University of California system.
“UC needs to grow and diversify the faculty to strengthen the university’s teaching, research, and public service mission and support UC undergraduate and graduate students,” the UC system said in its annual accountability report this summer. In adopting its UC 2030 initiative in 2019, it called for 1,100 new faculty members across the UC system by 2022, but is only about a third of the way toward hitting that goal.
The report noted challenges including a scaling back of hiring during the pandemic and an increase in underrepresented faculty members leaving their jobs. While more work needs to be done, the UC system is committing resources to hitting its growth goals: This year’s state budget includes an agreement to provide 5% increases to UC’s core budget over each of the next five years, “with the understanding that (the UC system) will focus resources on achieving UC’s 2030 goals, including growing and diversifying the faculty and narrowing student achievement gaps.”
Cody Kitaura is a News and Media Relations Specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.