Diversity champion Sheila O’Rourke wins national recognition
For her work toward increasing faculty diversity at UC Berkeley and running UC’s major pipeline bringing new scholars into tenure-track academic posts, Sheila O’Rourke has won national recognition.
O’Rourke, who is director of Faculty and Postdoctoral Diversity Initiatives at Berkeley and director of the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP), received the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education’s 2012 Individual Leadership Award at the organization’s annual conference in Los Angeles March 12 to 14.
From 1999 to 2008 O’Rourke worked at UC Office of the President, serving as assistant vice provost for faculty diversity and interim assistant vice chancellor for academic advancement. She moved to UC Berkeley in 2008, where she also served as Berkeley’s assistant provost for academic affairs.
“Since 1995, she has played a catalytic role with the UC system in its response to Proposition 209, the first statewide initiative banning the consideration of race and gender in public higher education,” her nomination letter said. She helped develop new strategies for achieving diversity in the post-affirmative-action age that have had an impact not only at Berkeley and throughout UC but also nationwide.
As director of UC’s PPFP, she designed and implemented selection criteria and a hiring incentive that supported the careers of many scholars whose teaching, research and service will contribute to diversity at UC. More than 100 former PPFP fellows have received UC faculty appointments in recent years. “Of the 34 new PPFP faculty eligible for tenure in the past decade, 33 have achieved tenure, far exceeding the UC average,” the letter said.
O’Rourke has also had an impact promoting the consideration of diversity in admissions and faculty hiring. In her current position, she is working on faculty diversity initiatives, including faculty mentoring programs and strategic planning for diversity in academic schools and departments, as well as continuing to direct the PPFP.
A lawyer, O’Rourke has also served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. She teaches a course on civil rights law in higher education at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education through the Freshman Seminar Program.