DEI workshop offers PhD students some key considerations when writing diversity statements.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is important in all industries, including academia. To emphasize that point, most future academics are now asked to answer a DEI-focused question when applying to jobs at universities.
Termed a diversity statement, this is an opportunity for doctoral students to affirm their values for teaching, researching and mentoring a more equitable environment both within and beyond academia.
To aid PhD students in drafting well-written statements, Temple University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) organized a workshop to show doctoral students how to prepare DEI statements for job applications.
Debashish Ghose, PhD ’21, and Steven Maex, a current PhD at Fox School, attended the workshop and shared their perspectives.
Ghose, who concentrated in marketing and is now a lecturer at Rutgers University, acknowledges that a DEI statement could be daunting for someone unfamiliar. But the resources offered by CAT and the Fox PhD program made him feel more comfortable.
“The workshop helped me recognize the various ways in which I had already been contributing to Temple’s DEI vision and inspired me to think of ways to enhance them in the future. It is important to realize that although there is no one perfect way of doing things, each of us can contribute meaningfully towards DEI.”
Maex, who is earning his doctorate in accounting, adds that crafting a DEI statement now will help a PhD student both now and in their future role.
“It forces PhD students to think deeply about some nuances of the academic environment—ensuring that the language used during teaching is well understood by all students, that examples used in discussions are relatable to students irrespective of their socio-economic statuses, and how the need of students in specific situations like single parents, part-time students or older students may be accommodated.”
Here are five tips to aid PhD students when writing a DEI statement.
1. Be specific.
It is helpful to start by scanning several universities’ DEI statements and the specific activities they undertake. Universities may have already identified concerns relevant to their communities; it will be helpful to know that in advance of writing the statement.
2. Do your research.
Some terms and expressions associated with DEI may be unfamiliar, so educate yourself before writing the statement. There are many workshops or online resources available, such as Temple University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
3. Be genuine.
Write what you would feel comfortable and confident saying out loud. Content designed to sound good on paper, but with which the student does not have a connection, may contribute to a lack of alignment between the candidate and the hiring university.
4. Reflect on who you are.
Take time to think about what DEI means to you. Speak about how you may have helped to make your environment more inclusive across teaching, research and service roles. Provide examples of steps taken in the past as well as plans to continue to make contributions to the space.
5. Get your statement peer-reviewed.
Discuss thoughts with friends and family. Their insights might lead to a revealing conversation.
Both Ghose and Maex explain that DEI is important in academia from both teaching and research perspectives. DEI promotes personal growth because it enables us to learn about the beliefs and experiences of other people that are different from our own.
“DEI statements affect career opportunities,” says Ghose. “For research, it is necessary to ensure that potentially non-trivial questions are not being ignored simply because of the disproportionate importance given to them by majority groups. As such, the statement is a good way for universities to gauge the alignment of the job candidate with their own DEI vision.”
“While there are many factors that universities consider when looking to hire potential candidates (e.g., capability to conduct high-quality research, teaching ability, etc.), the ability of the individual to contribute meaningfully to the hiring institution’s DEI initiatives can be a differentiator on the job market,” elaborates Maex.
“Universities have been making serious efforts to ensure that education and resources are equitably distributed within society and that classrooms reflect the actual composition of society, that no group is under-represented,” explains Ghose. “The DEI statement gives us PhD students the opportunity to share our vision for how we can contribute to the efforts of our potential employers.”