Women's History Month a time to honor accomplishments, celebrate excellence

Chancellor Larive and CPEVC Kletzer
Chancellor Cynthia Larive, left, and Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer

Women’s History Month, observed every March, recognizes, commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in U.S. history. It is the perfect month for us to host two of our scientific trailblazers: Sandra Faber, professor emerita of astronomy and astrophysics, and Kathryn D. Sullivan, a UC Santa Cruz alumna who after graduating in 1973 went on to become the first person to both orbit the planet and reach its deepest ocean point. In her case, the sky was truly not the limit.

The two will be in conversation Monday, March 8, with our own Beth Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a pioneering scientist in her own right. Sandra and Kathryn will explore their impactful careers and the influence UC Santa Cruz has had on their incredible success. Among their impressive accomplishments, Sandra co-led the largest project in the history of the Hubble Space Telescope, an undertaking that extended our view of galaxy formation back nearly to the Big Bang, while Kathryn was a member of the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble.

We also encourage you to visit the campus’s Women’s History Month landing page to catch up with two of the more prominent voices in health in the COVID-19 era: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and pandemic expert Laurie Garrett and Los Angeles County’s top public health official Barbara Ferrer. Both are alums and both are doing extraordinarily important work. Later this month you can read about undergraduate Gina Schneider, a Marin County native making history as part of the nation’s inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. The past year, meanwhile, has been a whirlwind for one recent alumna, and in a positive way. Garima Desai became UC Santa Cruz's first ever Rhodes Scholarship winner. She graduated this past spring with a double major in environmental studies and economics, and she's now continuing on a similar track at Oxford, where she'll pursue dual master's degrees. She talks about her journey to becoming a Rhodes Scholar in a recent UCSC Slugcast episode, which we’ve also linked from our Women’s History Month webpage.

It’s also the ideal time for us to announce the formation of the new Campus Advisory Committee on the Status of Womxn. CACSW’s principal purpose will be to examine issues regarding the status of women staff, students, and faculty on our campus; to analyze policies, procedures, and/or programs that affect those issues; to identify model programs and to support their implementation; to recommend to the chancellor and CPEVC changes that will ensure women equal and fair access to campus programs, activities, and opportunities; and to provide a chancellor-appointed representative to serve as a member of the Systemwide Advisory Committee on the Status of Womxn. Those interested in being members are urged to visit the website for more information. We’re delighted to announce the committee’s formation.

Finally, we’d like to acknowledge the regular work undertaken on our campus to boost the number of women and underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields. The world is increasingly driven by technological innovation, and we must increase the participation of women in STEM and also ensure they have ample opportunities to assume leadership positions. This has not always been the case historically despite evidence that diversity of experience and perspective in all fields is of deep and lasting value. Women in Science and Engineering, Girls in Engineering, ACS for BIPOC Women in Astronomy and Physics, our UCSC ACM-W chapter, and Society of STEM Sisters are among the fantastic campus programs and organizations doing the important work needed to change the face of the STEM fields. 

We appreciate having this opportunity to share a message honoring women and showcasing the excellence of our colleagues, students, alumni, and friends. We share this message in a year when one of UC’s own, Vice President Kamala Harris, has achieved the second-highest elected position in the country. When it comes to history, the story of women has historically been one of exclusion. A month recognizing achievement doesn’t change that, but it allows us to tell and retell the stories of so many inspiring women who have changed the world for the better or who aspire to do just that.