Colette Patt is the new assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice for CDSS. (Photo/ Brittany Hosea-Small)

UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) has hired Colette Patt as its first-ever assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice (DEIBJ). 

Patt, a nationally renowned diversity, equity and inclusion scholar and leader, will use a data-driven approach and the CDSS community’s expertise and experiences to help the division incorporate DEIBJ into its education, research and institution. 

Patt will work collaboratively with CDSS Associate Provost Jennifer Chayes and Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of ethnic studies at Berkeley who joined CDSS as associate dean for DEIBJ in July 2021. Patt comes to CDSS at a pivotal moment while the division is under consideration by the University of California to become a college

“This is the first time in the past 50 years that Berkeley has developed a new college. Over the last half-century, we've learned a lot about how to embed DEIBJ values in academia,” Patt said. “We have a remarkable opportunity to demonstrate what is possible and to demonstrate that not only for ourselves in CDSS but for the campus, for higher education and for the fields CDSS will interact within, serve and benefit.”

Patt’s hire is a crucial step in the division’s journey to harness data science and computing to help solve society’s most difficult challenges and to make these STEM careers accessible to individuals from non-traditional and diverse backgrounds. DEIBJ is a central part of this mission.

Patt will hold roles in CDSS and in the College of Letters & Science, where she will maintain her role as assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion and access for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Division. In her work, Patt said will identify and support synergies and cross-divisional exchanges of knowledge and ideas in these related fields. She will also indirectly report to Berkeley Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Dania Matos.

DEIBJ is intrinsic to CDSS, its programs and initiatives and its strived-for impact, and already work is being done in this space, Patt said. Her role will include refining the vision and creating a strategy around how it’s incorporated into CDSS’ education and research.

“The excitement around DEIBJ issues across CDSS is palpable. I think that's because people understand its importance in terms of what this field has to offer the world and how it’s already having an impact on the world,” Patt said.

“My job is really supporting, galvanizing and facilitating the existing commitments and hugely inspired energy that exists across this community, and then helping to ensure that all of that vision, energy, commitment and engagement is effective.”

Patt is widely known for her work increasing the diversity of STEM-related students and faculty at higher education institutions. 

For example, she developed and now leads the national Research University Alliance, a nine-university collaborative aiming to diversify the future professoriate nationally. The group, which was initially launched in 2014 as the California Alliance, creates professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds seeking STEM-related academic careers. They also study the successes and problems in this area. 

Patt received her Ph.D. in social and cultural studies in education at Berkeley and has conducted research in this space. She also has led similarly focused research around undergraduate students in Berkeley’s Mathematical & Physical Sciences Scholars program and the Solid Foundations program

She considers it crucial to conduct and use extensive and rigorous research and data to guide DEIBJ work, including upcoming CDSS efforts. 

“We do this research in the service of generating the right kinds of initiatives, programs, strategies and approaches to DEIBJ work,” said Patt. “What we do matters. I'm really excited about working with the entire community to act on and ensure that CDSS’ values and promise around DEIBJ work are realized."