Stacey Nicholas Donates $5 Million to UC Irvine to Further Boost Diversity in STEM

Gift from UCI Foundation trustee will create Women and Engineering Program


Nov. 15, 2023 - A $5 million gift from University of California, Irvine Foundation trustee Stacey Nicholas to The Henry Samueli School of Engineering will endow and rename a campus program that supports the recruitment, retention and graduation of students to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math. 

With the gift, the Office of Access and Inclusion will be renamed the Stacey Nicholas Office of Outreach, Access and Inclusion and will create the Women and Engineering Program, which will provide leadership training, mentorship, professional development and other services to promote the success and advancement of women in engineering. The program is open to all students committed to this mission.

“I firmly believe that investing in scholarships and programs for students dedicated to advancing diversity in engineering is not just an act of philanthropy; it’s an investment in our shared future,” Nicholas said. “It is critical to open pathways for all interested students, ensuring that engineering remains an accessible and promising field for everyone. In doing so, we shape not only the future of engineering but also the world it serves, making it stronger, more equitable and infinitely more innovative.” 

Magnus Egerstedt, the Stacey Nicholas Dean of Engineering, said: “This remarkable and transformative gift will allow us to increase the focus on making sure that our students feel a strong sense of connection and belonging. Students who participate in cohort-based experiences – such as student organizations, ‘makerspace’ clubs or undergraduate research programs – not only perform better academically and are more likely to graduate, but they feel better. I am extremely grateful to Stacey Nicholas and her trust in our program. Thanks to her generous donation, we have taken a significant step toward realizing the ambition that all of our engineering students will thrive on campus, no matter their background.”

Nicholas is an electrical engineer who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UCLA. She heads 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 information & computer sciences schools, Nicholas is a strong advocate of programs encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to pursue STEM education, as well as a supporter of the arts and education.

Since its 2014 inception, the Office of Access and Inclusion has instituted several 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 school has increased over the past 10 years (2013 to 2022), with a 30 percent rise in female enrollment. In the same period, overall enrollment of underrepresented undergraduates grew by 24 percent. The school has also enacted faculty recruitment programs, developed a strategic plan, partnered with outside organizations and created an infrastructure in support of diversity and inclusiveness.

Nicholas has served as a UCI Foundation trustee since 2015. This is her fourth major gift to UCI, starting with 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 2020, Nicholas gave $5 million to aid the Office of Access and Inclusion. And a $3 million gift from her in 2022 created a $2 million fund for the Stacey Nicholas Endowed Chair in Environmental Education to support the teaching, research and service activities of the chair-holder. The other $1 million provided seed funding to establish a network of University of California and California State University campuses dedicated to climate change education and action efforts by relaunching the Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Projects. 

– Mike Uhlenkamp