Focus on equity brings two professors top award

Professor Greig Crysler focuses on understanding how the physical world around us represents fairness and equality, and brings that persepective to students and administrators. Professor Lisa García Bedolla has devoted her career to examining the intractable barriers that prevent Latino students from getting good educations.

Both work at UC Berkeley, and both have been honored by Chancellor Carol Christ and Oscar Dubón, the vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, for their work making the school and the community beyond it more just and fair.

Professors Greg Crysler (left) and Lisa García Bedolla received the chancellor's award for advancing institutional excellence and equity.

Professors Greg Crysler (left) and Lisa García Bedolla received the chancellor’s award for advancing institutional excellence and equity.

The Awards for Advancing Institutional Excellence and Equity are given each year and recognize faculty who have been particularly focused on making UC Berkeley a place dedicated to an equity and inclusion both here and outside. Each award carries a $10,000 prize, to be used by the winners to further their projects or research.

“Both Lisa and Greig embody all the criteria for this award — including outstanding teaching and mentoring and building strong community partnerships,” Dubón said. “But it is through the timeliness of their research and the powerful impact of that work that they truly stand out.”

Crysler brings new perspectives to campus

A professor of architecture at the College of Environmental Design, Crysler has spent his career examining the space and politics of cultural difference. But he doesn’t get lost in the academics: Crysler regularly invites top thinkers and experts to symposiums about race, gender and sexuality that have “transformed the College of Environmental Design, and become a model for other institutions.”

Almost since arriving at Berkeley in 1999, Crysler has tried to expand the study of the human-created physical world, called the “built environment” by scholars, to include issues of gender, sexual orientation, race, legal status and other forms of social difference.

His research has examined how national museums represent the Holocaust or colonialism, the “occupation, appropriation and interpretation” of buildings and feelings of fear and insecurity in North American cities.

Professor Greig Crysler was honored for his work with the Arcus Endowment for Gender, Sexuality and the Built Environment.

Professor Greig Crysler was honored for his work with the Arcus Endowment for Gender, Sexuality and the Built Environment.

“While his manner is fair and earnest, he often elevates debates to a clear yet conceptually charged plane,” Tom Buresh, the chair of the architecture department, wrote in a nomination letter. “Crysler’s work on equity and inclusion in the built environment is in my view, one of a kind, both within and outside the university.”

Beyond his research, Crysler, who is also the Arcus Chair for Gender, Sexuality and the Built Environment, has devoted countless hours to the Arcus Endowment, a program he founded to bring together research, teaching and service relating to LGBTQ issues, architecture, urban planning and social justice.

Through the endowment, Crysler has put on well-attended lectures by social theorists, filmmakers, artists and novelists that examine the relationship between queer culture and design.

These lectures “address some of the most difficult and timely social issues of our day and do so with sophistication, creativity and sensitivity,” said Andrew Shanken, a professor of architecture. “Crysler produces this array of programs over and above his teaching load and, it should be noted, they go beyond his other service obligations, which are significant. It is clearly a labor of love.”

Crysler plans to use his $10,000 to develop new initiatives at the College of Environmental Design concerned with equity and inclusion.

In education, García Bedolla focuses on equality

Good data and better test scores aren’t enough to fix America’s education system, García Bedolla, a professor in the Graduate School of Education. Teachers, principals, lawmakers and reform advocates have to remember that the system was designed to be unequal. Long-term changes requires rethinking how to get parents, and voters, more involved.

García Bedolla, a 1992 UC Berkeley graduate who returned as a professor in 2013, is a “key figure in the university’s Chicano/Latino community with a focus on improving equity among students and faculty,” wrote Kris Gutierrez, a professor of language, literacy and culture in the Graduate School of Education.

In her research, García Bedolla, who also heads the Institute of Governmental Studies, focuses on the educational and political opportunities available to members of marginalized communities, and how those opportunities create and sustain inequalities. García Bedolla has authored reports on voter participation and worked with foundations to develop a program increasing Latino civic engagement.

Professor Lisa García Bedolla was honored for her attention to educational inequality and political engagement.

Professor Lisa García Bedolla was honored for her attention to educational inequality and political engagement.

“She documents how Latinos’ lack of educational success has the paradoxical effect of making it less likely they will be able to have the political influence necessary to make the U.S. educational system more responsive to the needs of Latino students,” Jabari Mahiri, a professor of education wrote in a letter nominating García Bedolla for the award.

On campus, García Bedolla has insisted that her students commit to the world around them. In one course, “The Politics of Educational Inequality,” she offers an extra unit of credit to students if they volunteer with organizations that support vulnerable populations.

García Bedolla “embodies a democratic vision of campus climate in her lecture hall, allowing students to talk and express opinions freely while encouraging students to situate their opinions within their standpoint and experience,” Alicia Arman, an undergraduate student of García Bedolla’s, wrote in an evaluation.

García Bedolla plans to use her $10,000 grant to build research partnerships grounded in real-world knowledge and focused on addressing inequality.

The awards will be formally presented to García Bedolla and Crysler early next year.

Contact Will Kane at