Sophie Barbu

Sophie Barbu

Assistant Director, Strategic Initiatives

Sophie Barbu

As Assistant Director for Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I spend most of my time on two exciting endeavors 1) overseeing a DEI-Healthy Davis Together communications initiative that engages diverse communities in public education and research efforts around testing and behavioral adaptations relevant to COVID-19 suppression, and 2) managing grant administration and project coordination for the UC Davis ENHANCE grant, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, that advances STEM faculty diversity by assisting underrepresented minorities with research development and family care during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

I serve as communications liaison with Strategic Communications and the Development and Alumni Relations units, and work to develop tools, strengthen internal and external communications, and coordinate grants and fundraising efforts.

Previously, I was Assistant Director for the NSF-funded UC Davis ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant to create institutional change to support the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women and underrepresented faculty in science technology, engineering, and math (STEM). From 2008-2012, I served as Senior Program Coordinator for a large international public health organization, University Research Co., LLC, on federally-funded programs valued at $32M and $7.5M, that helped international communities access health services in Uganda and Ethiopia. I received my B.A. in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.

In 2017, I was selected for the competitive University of California Women’s Initiative for Professional Development award. I am the 2020-2021 co-Chair of the Status of Women at Davis Administrative Advisory Committee (SWADAAC) and have been a member since since 2015.

When not working I can be found hiking in the mountains or on coastal trails, cooking and enjoying international cuisine (usually Moroccan, Jamaican, Chinese, and Italian), playing with my border collie dogs, or chasing my toddler around (likely while doing any of the previously-mentioned activities).

Why I Do DEI Work

My mom is Chinese-Jamaican and grew up as one of six kids, poor in Kingston, Jamaica. She came to the US, without any family, on a college scholarship to go to Miami-University of Ohio (talk about culture shock!). She often spoke of her struggles of being treated as an “other” at work, school, and among community members well into adulthood. It affected her job opportunities and mobility, self-perception, and feelings of isolation. As a child, I remember wanting to take that pain away and prevent others from experiencing the same. The energy and resilience it took for her to raise a family, gain success, and live happily in spite of the many obstacles is truly amazing. Her experience sparked my interest in DEI work and throughout my career I’ve tried to pursue work that improves people’s lives and strives for diversity, equity, and inclusion.  


Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s walking forward in spite of it.

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Last updated October 2021