Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Self-Assessment Summary Report
In Fall 2020, the Graduate School asked all PhD, MFA, and DMA programs that participate in the Graduate School Support Competition (GSSC) to complete a self-assessment of their diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in 5 areas: recruitment; admissions; retention; degree completion; and career transitions. They were provided with a list of practices they might be using in each of those areas, and asked to report the degree to which they engaged in those practices with respect to AOF-eligible students. In addition, they were asked about other practices they might be engaging in; what practices they believed were the most successful; and what major challenges they faced. By February 2021 91 PhD programs had completed the assessment, and the results show substantial variation in practices across programs and divisions in some areas and a desire for more centralized support and guidance on many issues.
Recruitment: The biological sciences division shows the most extensive activity, especially with respect to recruitment visits, recruitment fairs, and working with campus partners. Few programs reported that they had established partnerships with minority-serving institutions. Programs note the importance of having a diverse faculty and staff and of individualized outreach. Challenges include funding packages that are not competitive, campus climate, and lack of centralized training and support.
Admissions: The social science division reports the greatest activity, and most programs report that they engage in holistic admissions practices. Few programs set explicit admissions goals or offer application fee grants. Challenges include a complex admissions process and lack of guidance about how to draft explicit admissions goals.
Retention: The most common practices include facilitating student socialization and proactively reaching out to students to determine how to meet their needs. Very few programs report that they require faculty mentor training. The most successful strategies include deep engagement by faculty, staff, and students in program/department-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, such as: formal sitting committees; strategic planning that centers equity and inclusion; departmental/programmatic climate survey; discussion/reading groups; town halls/listening sessions; anonymous suggestion box. Programs report that inadequate funding, lack of faculty buy-in, and lack of central campus guidance are major challenges.
Degree completion: The biological sciences division reports high use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs), while that practice is less common in other divisions. Very few programs offer dissertation writing boot camps. Regular assessment of progress to degree and funding for research and conference travel are successful strategies. Programs that use IDPs report skepticism that they are effective. Major challenges include lack of funding for dissertators and lack of family and medical leave.
Career transitions: Programs report high engagement with student participation in research conferences and providing professional development opportunities. They report that networking, including with alumni, is a successful strategy. Nationwide lack of tenure-track positions and tensions between academic and non-academic tracks are challenges.
Next steps: The Graduate School is leading a number of initiatives that will use the self-assessment survey data to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion goals in graduate education at UW–Madison. For example, the survey data will be shared with graduate programs in aggregate as a resource for new program planning. A survey report overview will be presented at a spring 2021 Graduate Faculty Executive Committee meeting, shared with academic planners across campus, and used as the basis for discussion among Graduate Directors of Graduate Study. The Graduate School will kick off a new discussion series in April 2021, designed to broadly engage all interested campus partners in conversation about best practices in the recruitment of diverse graduate student populations.