tacey Nicholas, UCI trustee
“It’s so important to support underrepresented students so they’ll have the same chance of success as their more fortunate peers,” says UCI Foundation trustee Stacey Nicholas. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 10, 2020 — A $5 million gift from UCI Foundation trustee Stacey Nicholas will endow and rename a program serving both The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences – the UCI Office of Access & Inclusion – that supports the recruitment, retention and graduation of students from historically excluded populations who are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math.

Nicholas is an electrical engineer who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UCLA. She founded the Irvine-based Opus Foundation, which promotes STEM education outreach and the arts. Active on various dean’s advisory and executive boards for UCI’s engineering and ICS schools, she is a strong advocate of programs encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to pursue STEM education.

“It’s so important to support underrepresented students so they’ll have the same chance of success as their more fortunate peers,” Nicholas said. “Engineering can be a transformative path for these students, as well as for their families and communities. They will bring new perspectives to the world’s most critical problems and truly represent our diverse nation. They will serve as role models for others and empower future generations. Now more than ever, our country and the world need these brilliant and talented engineers to better the lives of all of us going forward.”

Since its 2014 inception, the Office of Access & Inclusion has instituted a number of efforts aimed at high school, community college, and incoming and existing UCI students to build, maintain and improve the pipeline of high-quality students from underrepresented populations.

Gender diversity in UCI’s engineering and ICS schools has increased over the past five years, with a 39 percent rise in female enrollment in engineering and a 50 percent jump in ICS. In the same time period, overall enrollment of underrepresented undergraduates has grown by 29 percent in engineering and 50 percent in ICS. The schools also have instituted faculty recruitment programs, developed a strategic plan, partnered with outside organizations and created an infrastructure in support of diversity and inclusiveness.

“This generous gift will allow us to continue to build on our successful efforts in inclusive excellence,” said Gregory Washington, the Stacey Nicholas Dean of Engineering. “Stacey’s involvement with our programs over the years has reaped rewards, and we are proudly renaming the OAI the Stacey Nicholas Office of Access & Inclusion.”

Marios C. Papaefthymiou, the Ted and Janice Smith Family Foundation Dean in Information & Computer Sciences, added: “The OAI has been instrumental in helping us grow our underrepresented student population and in providing fundamental resources to ensure that faculty and students succeed on campus. Stacey’s generosity and vision will enable us to continue pursuing our goal of increasing diversity in the STEM fields at UCI.”

Sharnnia Artis, the OAI’s assistant dean, said the endowment will be a great asset. “In the next five years, we envision the OAI leading the nation in diversity and inclusion initiatives,” she said. “With this new gift from Stacey, we will be able to significantly amplify the impact of our efforts and expeditiously transform this vision into reality.”

Nicholas has served as a UCI Foundation trustee since 2015. This is her second major gift to UCI, following a $9.5 million donation to the engineering school in 2014 to fund scholarships and graduate fellowships, bolster outreach programs and endow its deanship. In April 2019, she gave $5 million to UCLA in support of women in engineering.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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