Dubón aims to innovate as new vice chancellor of equity and inclusion

June 22, 2017

Oscar Dubón, materials science and engineering professor and associate dean of equity and inclusion in the College of Engineering, has been selected as UC Berkeley's next vice chancellor of equity and inclusion. Dubón entered the UC system as a 17-year-old freshman at UCLA. He arrived at Berkeley in 1989 as a first-year graduate student in engineering and earned his Ph.D. here in materials science and mineral engineering in 1996. Dubón has been a professor in the College of Engineering since 2000.

His appointment was announced today in a message to the campus community. Shortly before, he spoke with Berkeley News about his new role on campus.

Berkeley News: How do you think having a background in engineering will shape the way you approach your new role?

Oscar Dubón: I think it means that I'm going to be seeing the challenges of equity and inclusion from a slightly different vantage point. My scholarship isn't in the fields of racial justice or other societal inequities, so I'm bringing a point of view where I'm looking at the challenges, problems and opportunities here and thinking about how we can be innovative in that space. That's my engineer's vantage point.

Part of that point of view, however, also takes into account that I personally have been in the UC system as a minority student since I was 17 years old. As an undergraduate, I was exploring questions about voice and community. I remember having conversations about Central Americans being a part of the Latino community and how the Mexican American community has some shared interests but also differing identities. Having those types of interactions really informed me.

Obviously, I'm an engineer, but I'm an engineer with certain identities and these intersections really do matter. It's something I've thought a lot about over the last few decades when I've seen equity and inclusion issues come up over and over again.

Engineers sometimes give themselves too much credit for solving the problems of society, but oftentimes what we don't do is really listen to all the voices that need to be at the table in order for those solutions to truly matter. That's something that's resonated with me for a long time — having this mindset of solving problems and innovating, but also taking into account who we're solving problems for and what is their role in articulating the problem and the solution.

What do you think are the biggest campus-climate issues, and how do you intend to solve them? Are there any particular initiatives you plan on implementing/furthering?

Groups on campus experience climate differently. But one can find some shared issues: meeting certain important basic needs, such as housing and food security and personal wellness; making Berkeley accessible to students, staff and faculty; and having in place structures that help all groups thrive on campus. All members of our community should feel that they have reasonable opportunities for growth and are treated fairly. In my experience, issues around climate are not solved; rather they must be constantly evaluated and addressed with interventions that are sufficiently general to be scalable yet sufficiently specific to be meaningful to the individual.

Before embarking on a specific initiative, I will study the significant work that has been taking place under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Nasir. In the long term, I wish to work with academic departments and other units on initiatives that will help address climate issues that arise from our biases, interpersonal engagements that are soured by power inequity and our inability to truly listen to each other.

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