October 13, 2021

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To: UC Santa Barbara Faculty

From David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor

Re: Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Academic Initiative Professorships, Cluster V: Racial Justice 

I am pleased to announce that after an extensive selection process, a new Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Academic Initiative has been named. Last March, following campus consultation in the context of national and local discussions about racial injustice, the structural inequities stemming from systemic racism, and the problem of anti-Black racism, a call for pre-proposals related to racial justice was announced. The selection committee, chaired by Associate Vice Chancellor Dana Mastro, reviewed seven pre-proposals, three of which were selected to be expanded into final proposals. Based on the committee’s recommendations and comments, and additional consultation, we have selected a proposal focused on “racial environmental justice” from a leadership team led by Professor David Pellow, Chair of the Environmental Studies Program, Professor Inés Casillas, Director of the Chicano Studies Institute, and Professor Sarah Anderson, Associate Dean of the Bren School. 

This leadership team has worked closely with several partner departments, including Statistics and Applied Probability, Environmental Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and the Bren School, but a range of departments, programs, centers, and initiatives have been identified as potential collaborators, including Black Studies, Geography, the American Indian Indigenous Collective, Asian American Studies, and the Environmental Humanities Initiative. The selection committee and the deans saw opportunities to connect this Mellichamp cluster to other recruitments in the area of environmental justice. 

The Environmental Racial Justice cluster aims to explore the environmental and climate injustices facing communities of color and indigenous populations, building capacity for quantitative research on racial environmental justice to complement existing strengths in humanistic and qualitative approaches, and expanding definitions of the environment to include built and urban spaces.  Building on work in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, the cluster is designed to strengthen disciplinary pluralism and the productive integration of quantitative and qualitative research, including data science initiatives. 

The Academic Initiative Professorships were established by generous gifts from Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp to support new academic programs and faculty recruitment efforts on campus. Each group of four coordinated, endowed chairs is designed to advance a major academic priority, support or develop centers of excellence, and/or leverage campus strengths and special opportunities, over a 15-year period. It is expected that the clusters, in collaboration with other faculty and programs, will help develop areas of distinction and prominence. The goal is to support or develop centers of excellence capable of generating additional support by leveraging campus strengths and/or generating external funding. 

This Mellichamp Academic Initiative is scheduled to begin in 2023 and is the fifth in a sequence of clusters that have been established since the beginning of the program, including: Systems Biology (2003-2004), Global Civil Society (2008-2009), Sustainability (2013-2014), and Mind and Machine Intelligence (2018-2019). These clusters have been catalysts in many ways, leveraging existing strengths, encouraging collaboration and interdisciplinary partnerships, and inaugurating new research trajectories. 

I look forward to the discussions and events that the coordinators will plan over the course of the next year to facilitate dialogue and educate the campus about this important, emerging field of study, and to consult broadly about how to extend the impact of the cluster across multiple departments and programs. 

I am grateful to the committee members, listed below.

Mellichamp Academic Initiative Selection Committee 

Dana Mastro, Chair, Associate Vice Chancellor, Academic Personnel
Jean Beaman, Associate Professor, Sociology 
Anne Charity Hudley, Professor, Linguistics, and North Hall Chair; Vice-Chair, Council on Budget and Planning 
Michael Curtin, Mellichamp Distinguished Professor, Film and Media Studies
Miguel Eckstein, Mellichamp Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Yunte Huang, Professor, English
Melissa Morgan, Professor, Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology; Vice Chair, Academic Senate; Chair, Academic Senate Committee on Diversity and Equity
Rachel Segalman, Professor and Chair, Chemical Engineering
Doug Steigerwald, Professor, Economics; Chair, Council on Budget and Planning
Naomi Tague, Professor, Bren School
Belinda Robnett, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ex officio)