Focus on Diversity


In response to a challenging diversity climate across the UC San Diego campus last year, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography community rallied together to create opportunities for healing and progress on many fronts. The honorable efforts of one individual and two groups were recognized in February at UCSD’s 16th Annual Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Diversity Awards. An impressive 15 diversity champions from Scripps and Birch Aquarium at Scripps comprised the award-winning ensemble. Congratulations to all of the Scripps diversity award winners:

Mike Navarro
Scripps Graduate Student

Scripps graduate student Mike Navarro was honored with a diversity award for his outstanding leadership coordinating Scripps’ outreach to underserved communities, including Compton, a city that neighbors his hometown of Long Beach, Calif. Since being enrolled as a graduate student at Scripps, Navarro has dedicated himself to diversity outreach and education, reaching out to the communities of UCSD and San Diego.Following racist incidents at UC San Diego last year, he extended his effort to Compton and was a constant face at rallies and marches. He and five other Scripps members organized a diversity forum at Scripps that featured powerful public speakers and participation by UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. As part of the planning for the forum this group met with Scripps Director Tony Haymet, and in this meeting Mike and Dr. Haymet decided to arrange a trip to Compton High School to meet with concerned students. This visit resulted in the development of the now annual "Focus on the Future" summer program. The program is aimed to serve students from underrepresented high schools in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. As a student leader of “Focus on the Future,” Mike dedicated a huge amount of time and passion, recruiting mentors, serving as a mentor himself, and helping schedule unique academic experiences for the visiting students. Beyond these efforts, Mike has also applied his infectious enthusiasm to help rally graduate students and staff for the annual SACNAS (Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science) conference and even offered personal housing to those who attended. He currently serves as an advisor to the current undergraduate SACNAS group at UCSD.

“Focus on the Future” Administrative Team
Noelle Bowlin, Carrie Byrd, Joy Frye, Melissa Garren, Ken Hall, Wendy Hunter-Barker, Levi Lewis, Mike Navarro, and Lauren Shipp

The members of the “Focus on the Future” administrative team were recognized with a diversity award for their demonstrated commitment to enhancing diversity and upholding the UC San Diego Principles of Community. Mobilizing in the wake of racist incidents last year, this core group of Scripps students and staff worked to establish a line of communication, engagement, and trust between Compton High School and UC San Diego. Their efforts led to the opportunity for 20 students and four teachers from Compton High School to spend three weeks on campus last summer, studying and getting to know the true face of UCSD. Although many contributed to the program, this administrative team from Scripps was instrumental in conceptualizing, organizing, and implementing the “Focus on the Future” program.

Increasing diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields is a challenging endeavor that requires ingenuity and perseverance. The individuals on the “Focus on the Future” team demonstrated they possess those qualities and more. When confronted with a campus climate shaken by discriminatory acts of hate, they actively sought to be a part of the solution. Undeterred by the extra burden creating this program would entail, they worked tirelessly for months to make this program a reality. They didn’t do it for extra pay or advancement; they did it because they all agreed that every student deserves access to the type of education and opportunities offered at Scripps and UC San Diego.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Education Department
Led by Birch Aquarium Executive Director Nigella Hillgarth and Education Director Kristin Evans

Birch Aquarium at Scripps’ Education Department was honored with a diversity award for their many outreach and education efforts to underserved areas of the San Diego community and beyond. Birch Aquarium is the public interpretive center for Scripps Institution of Oceanography, inviting and engaging diverse audiences from across San Diego and Southern California, as well as from across the globe. At the heart of this effort is the Education Department, a team of extremely dedicated individuals who provide an environment for inclusive learning and exploration. The department connects with more than 100,000 individuals each year. These individuals represent highly diverse communities, each with a unique interest, need, or expectation. Over the past 12 months, the department has made efforts to enhance the aquarium’s resources, skills, and approaches to working with and for diverse audiences. These efforts have included aligning and partnering with diversity- and inclusion-based organizations; participating in and hosting professional development sessions for staff and volunteers focused on understanding and working with diverse audiences; and becoming involved in UCSD diversity groups and programs. Together, these efforts are expanding scientific literacy and creating innovative educational experiences for the thousands of visiting schoolchildren who visit Birch Aquarium each year.

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