News

GRE-blind graduate admissions, expanded fee waivers highlight EECS focus on equity and diversity

As the largest department at UC Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) [over 130 faculty, 730 graduate students, and 3,450 undergraduates] has long recognized the challenge of attracting, admitting, and graduating doctoral students who will enrich the diversity of the field.

In the context of the recently heightened awareness of the damage caused by structural racism nationwide, Black student leaders, among others, have suggested a number of improvements to address racial climate challenges and other sources of inequity in the department. In response, EECS has stepped up its equity and inclusion efforts in all aspects of Department operations—teaching, research, graduate student recruitment and retention, and faculty recruitment and retention.   A task force, consisting of student leaders, faculty, staff, and Department leadership, has been assembled to provide continuity and accountability across all our diversity efforts on an ongoing basis, particularly efforts to address racism and social justice in EECS.

In response to growing concerns that hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic would further disadvantage applicants who do not have equal access, the Department has decided to completely remove the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) from consideration for graduate applicants for 2021 admission. This decision is consistent with a number of our peer institutions in the Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance.  According to data collected by the Black In AI mentoring program, co-founded by new Berkeley EECS faculty member Rediet Abebe, many qualified candidates do not actually apply to many graduate programs due to the financial and logistical burdens of taking the exam and submitting scores. Next Spring, EECS will review the impact of this decision on graduate applications and admissions for 2021, and then make a decision regarding GRE use for Fall 2022 and subsequent years.

In addition, fee waivers for application to graduate school have been expanded across campus to allow more students to afford an application to Berkeley. The Department hopes these efforts will attract more talented minority students to apply, and will determine how effective these measures  have been during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.

Gabe Fierro wins inaugural Google - CMD-IT FLIP Dissertation Fellowship

EECS graduate student Gabriel Fierro (B.S. c. 2014, Ph.D. advisor: David Culler) has won an inaugural Google - CMD-IT FLIP Dissertation Fellowship.   He is one of 11 computer science scholars from underrepresented groups who were recognized this year for "positively influencing the direction and perspective of technology."   The award is part of a joint effort by Google Research, the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), and the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology (CMD-IT) Diversifying Future Leadership in the Professoriate (FLIP) Alliance to increase the diversity of doctoral graduates in computing.  After completing his Ph.D., Fierro aspires to "a faculty position in a computer science department where I am able to pursue non-traditional and cross-disciplinary approaches to long-standing problems of sustainability and the built environment."  Fierro is currently working on the Buildings, Energy and Transportation Systems project in conjunction with the RISE Lab.

Sheila Humphreys to join Carol Christ for Campus Conversation on 150W History Project

EECS Director Emerita of Diversity, Sheila Humphreys, will be joining Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Prof. Emerita Catherine Gallagher for a Campus Conversation about the 150 Years of Women at Berkeley (150W) History Project, which Humphreys and Gallagher currently co-chair.  October marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ unanimous approval of a resolution by Regent Samuel F. Butterworth: “That young ladies be admitted into the University on equal terms in all respects with young men.” This conversation on the 150W History Project will be the highlight of a year celebrating watershed moments of the remarkable women who have made immeasurable contributions to our campus and beyond.

Cecilia Aragon: Flying Free

CS alumna Cecilia Aragon (Ph.D. '04, advisors: Shankar Sastry and Marti Hearst) has written a memoir titled "Flying Free," which describes how she shook off the tethers of discrimination and her debilitating fear of heights to become the first Latina pilot to win a spot on the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team, which represented the U.S. at the World Aerobatic Championships in 1991.  The daughter of a Chilean father and Filipina mother, Aragon earned her B.S. in Mathematics at Caltech before coming to Berkeley.  She was president of the student organization Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WICSE) in 1985 before dropping out.  After conquering her fears, she returned to Berkeley to complete her dissertation, "Improving Aviation Safety with Information Visualization:  Airflow Hazard Display for Helicopter Pilots," in 2004.  Aragon then spent nine years at the NASA Ames Research Center designing software for projects that included missions to Mars, before leaving to be a staff scientist/visiting faculty at LBNL for another 15 years. She then became the first Latina full professor at the University of Washington (UW), where has worked for the past ten years in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, founding and co-directing the UW Data Science Masters Degree program.  Aragon was named Berkeley Computer Science Distinguished Alumna in 2013.  She co-authored a previous book, "Writers in the Secret Garden:  Fanfiction, Youth, and New Forms of Mentoring," released by MIT Press in 2019.

John Davis to participate in BESAC panel on "Black in STEM - in the face of two pandemics"

EECS alumnus John S. Davis II (Ph.D. '00, advisor: Edward Lee) will be participating in the Black Engineering and Science Alumni Club (BESAC)'s homecoming week panel on "Black in STEM -  in the face of two pandemics."  This virtual moderated panel, which will be held on October 17th,  will discuss the impact that both the CoVID-19 pandemic and the events underlying the Black Lives Matter movement have had on the Black community.   Davis is a senior privacy engineer at Google where he has published work to aid CoVID-19 researchers in datamining symptom search terms in Google while simultaneously protecting user privacy.  He joined Google in 2019 after eight years as a senior information scientist at the Rand Corporation, and seven years as a staff researcher at IBM’s Watson Research Center.  The panel will discuss topics ranging from engineering projects by UC Berkeley alumni and faculty to meet the moment of the CoVID-19 pandemic, efforts to address the disparate effects of CoVID-19 on the Black community, and wide-ranging initiatives to redress the impacts of systemic racism.   Registration is required to receive the Zoom log-in.

Dan Garcia in his home studio

Dan Garcia's creative video lessons keep students engaged

CS Teaching Prof. Dan Garcia is featured in NBC Bay Area for his innovative teaching style which keep his students engaged in online learning.  He has "transformed his mancave into a studio," where he films and edits his creative virtual lessons, and then uploads them for students to watch.  Known for rapping his own lyrics to songs from the musical Hamilton in giant lecture halls, Garcia has adapted to using a green screen to film and edit his one hour video lessons, incorporating a variety of voices.  His extra efforts have been lauded by students stuck in their rooms during the fall semester.

Rising Stars 2020, Berkley EECS, November 9-10, 2020

EECS to host Rising Stars 2020

UC Berkeley has been selected to host the Rising Stars 2020 Academic Career Workshop for Women in EECS, which will be held virtually on November 9-10, 2020.  Born at MIT in 2013 and last hosted by Berkeley in 2014, Rising Stars is an intensive workshop for women graduate students and postdocs who are interested in pursuing academic careers in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering.  It will bring together senior-level PhD students, postdocs, faculty and special guests and  for a two-day intensive virtual workshop on the faculty search process.  Female-identifying EE and CS PhD graduate students who are within ~1-2 years of graduating, as well as postdocs who have obtained a PhD no earlier than 2017, are encouraged to apply.  The application deadline is deadline is September 7, 2020.

Josephine Williamson celebrated as influential leader

EECS director of operations Josephine Williamson is one of 18 unsung heroines at UC Berkeley being honored this month as part of the Berkeley 150W project.  Williamson, whom Vice Provost Tsu-Jae King Liu describes as “an exemplary builder of positive working relationships,” knows the department inside and out.  She began her relationship with EECS as an undergraduate workstudy, helping students, faculty, staff and visitors, behind the Soda Hall front desk.  After graduating and exploring some other career options, she returned to campus as the manager of budget and planning in the College of Engineering, and was hired away two years later to serve as EECS's manager of financial services.   She has been in her current position as director of operations for almost ten years, and was recognized for her leadership skills with a Chancellor's Outstanding Staff Award (COSA) in 2017, the Berkeley Chancellor's highest staff honor.  Williamson is treasured by her staff  as a compassionate and positive leader who has created a supportive, nurturing work environment that has remained strong even during difficult times.  She has taken steps to make the department more welcoming to a greater diversity of people, and has created a more open, convivial, and respectful culture for everyone.  "During my years at Cal, I learned that it is not only important to recognize our strengths, but also to seek out areas where we need to change and further develop," she says.  "It’s important to create a safe place for people to share stories, listen and reflect in order to come together as a team."

EECS 150W: Sheila Humphreys and WiCSE

In celebration of 150 Years of Women at Berkeley, the EECS Director Emerita of Diversity (and Berkeley 150W History Project co-chair) Sheila Humphreys tells the story of  Women in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (WiCSE), the first student group at an American university created to support and increase the number of women in those fields.   WiCSE was born when the political foment of 1970s Berkeley met the burgeoning field of computer science in Evans Hall.  Humphreys charts WiCSE's path from the formation of the first women's clubs at Berkeley one hundred years before, to its 40th reunion in 2018.  WICSE has established itself as a permanent force in EECS: a powerful voice for women students, a model of peer engagement and support, and a pipeline for women into the fields of EE and CS.  Humphreys' life-long mission to diversify the global population of computer scientists and engineers is the subject of July's Notable Women of EECS profile.

Gary May: "George Floyd could have been me"

EECS alumnus Gary S. May (M.S. '88/Ph.D. '91, advisor: Costas Spanos), the first Black chancellor of UC Davis, has penned an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle titled "UC Davis chancellor: George Floyd could have been me" in which he observes that "at a traffic stop, no one knows I am a chancellor. No one knows I have a doctorate."  He explains that building an inclusive society that recognizes and respects people of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and a wide variety of political views, gender identities, and personal experiences, will increase our capacity to "make discoveries and solve problems."  "It requires collective effort," he writes.  "It requires each one of us, in our own way, working to make a difference, whether that’s through video recording, peaceful protest or working to change procedures that reflect bias."