Berkeley and UC diversity champion wins national recognition

For her work toward increasing faculty diversity at UC Berkeley and running UC’s major pipeline bringing new scholars into tenure-track academic posts, Sheila O’Rourke is winning national recognition.

Sheila O'Rourke

Sheila O'Rourke. (Bobby White photo)

O’Rourke, director of Faculty and Postdoctoral Diversity Initiatives at Berkeley as well as director of the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, will receive the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education’s 2012 Individual Leadership Award at the organization’s annual conference next week in Los Angeles.

“Since 1995, she has played a catalytic role with the UC system in its response to Proposition 209, the first statewide initiative banning the consideration of race and gender in public higher education,” said her nomination letter. She helped develop new strategies for achieving diversity in the post-affirmative-action age that have had an impact not only at Berkeley and throughout UC, but around the nation.

As director of the UC’s PPFP, she designed and implemented selection criteria and a hiring incentive that supported the careers of many scholars whose teaching, research and service will contribute to diversity at UC. Over 100 former PPFP fellows have received UC faculty appointments in recent years. “Of the 34 new PPFP faculty eligible for tenure in the past decade, 33 have achieved tenure, far exceeding the UC average,” the letter continued.

O’Rourke has also had an impact promoting the consideration of diversity in admissions and faculty hiring. She has served as Berkeley’s assistant provost for academic affairs, as well as assistant vice provost for equity and inclusion at UC’s Office of the President.

In her current position, she is working on faculty diversity initiatives, including faculty mentoring programs and strategic planning for diversity in academic schools and departments, as well as continuing to direct the PPFC.

A lawyer, O’Rourke has also served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. She teaches a course on civil rights law in higher education at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education through the Freshman Seminar Program.