Last updated: 3/15/22
UW Psychology's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion guides our decision making in all aspects of department life. Below, we summarize some of the ways these values have shaped our decisions, functioning, and allocation of resources.
Psychology's longstanding Diversity Steering Committee is co-chaired by faculty and graduate students. This committee meets regularly as a unit and with department leadership to discuss and address diversity issues facing our department. The Diversity Steering Committee conducts climate surveys, shares the findings with the department, hosts community-building events, hosts a distinguished guest speaker visit, provides feedback on policy recommendations, and manages a graduate diversity science specialization/minor. The committee has a discretionary budget for community-building events, and has a dedicated department RA position attached to the committee (220 hours/quarter) to compensate students for their DEI efforts. The committee prioritizes activities each year, and recent activities include developing a method to audit syllabi with respect to DEI content, supporting faculty in increasing the inclusivity of their syllabi with DEI office hours, and hosting a BIPOC/URM outreach Sneak Peek event to support graduate recruitment.
We actively seek funding to support historically excluded graduate students. This includes regular applications for Diversity Supplements on existing faculty grants, department-funded diversity fellowships, fellowship support from the UW's Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program, donor solicitations to support our diversity fund, and we mentor students to develop a funding record with NIH-NRSA, NSF, Ford, and HHMI fellowship applications.
Psychology has adopted many equity-based best practices and policies to better support our students, and specifically those experiencing adversity and those from underrepresented backgrounds. In the last year, we 1) increased transparency in milestones around collaboration, expectations, and put them in a clearer table format providing students with a clear understanding of graduate school expectations (Mendoza-Denton et al., 2017); 2) all incoming students receive a copy of the Field Guide to Graduate Study to provide insights into the hidden curriculum in academia; 3) we overhauled our approach to awards, both in our Department and at the University level, resulting in more students who are first generation and from underrepresented backgrounds being nominated for and winning Department and University awards; 4) changed our student annual report process to celebrate a wider range of student achievements and 5) are making a change to when students move from the TA1 to TA2 pay rate (given role of experienced adversity may play in impacting achievement of milestones later in the program). Additionally, our Graduate Training Committee regularly evaluates and improves policies and procedures to promote graduate education and diversity and is receptive to individual student concerns about the training program.
We also have practices supporting the fiscal needs of our graduate students. Our faculty and staff support a grocery gift card emergency fund (contributing $3000 annually) for students whereby students can anonymously request grocery gift cards when they have a financial emergency. During the pandemic, we have also turned our discretionary money typically spent on student travel into a resource for emergency coronavirus aid to graduate students facing fiscal emergency needs. We have additionally found ways to use diversity donor funds support our students in transitional/crisis moments to help ease financial burdens and promote retention in our program. We have also increased annual travel support to graduate students to assure that financial barriers do not limit professional activities (students received $750/year for conferences), and all incoming graduate students receive a bonus to support relocation expenses.
Our clinical science psychology training program is reorganizing its program and philosophy around anti-racism principles, and Dr. Anu Taranath was brought in as a consultant to support this group through this transition. As part of this process, program faculty have met individually and collectively with Dr. Taranath, held townhall meetings with students, conducts monthly DEI faculty meetings (to which students are invited), and holds faculty DEI retreats. All of these activities are devoted to formulating, implementing, and sustaining best practices for integrating DEI and anti-racism principles throughout all aspects of the clinical science training program: teaching, research, and clinical service. The student clinical evaluation process was changed to be transparent. Now supervisors and students complete the evaluation together, and the evaluation is only submitted once students and their supervisor have engaged in this collaborative process. Upcoming products reflecting these activities include a revised mission and values statement, a DEI strategic plan, and an extensive FAQ web page for prospective program applicants.
The Psychology department has eliminated the GRE from graduate admissions, and it will no longer be collected or evaluated in the graduate admissions process. This decision stemmed from a year of hard work by our admissions committee, with significant consultation with graduate students and others. The committee also introduced an admissions rubric to help support equitable decision making and address potential biases in other aspects on graduate admissions.
The Diversity Steering Committee hosts a Sneak Peek recruitment event to support prospective students, especially those from historically excluded groups, in learning about the graduate admissions process and UW Psychology.Mendoza-Denton R, Patt C, Fisher A, Eppig A, Young I, Smith A, et al. (2017) Differences in STEM doctoral publication by ethnicity, gender and academic field at a large public research university. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0174296. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174296
Psychology has an undergraduate course aimed at supporting new transfer students from community colleges. We have also supported an undergraduate diversity conference. Psychology has an undergraduate mentoring program than connected over 200 first generation, BIPOC, or low-income undergraduates with faculty, postdoc, alumni, and graduate student mentors with whom they met regularly throughout the year. We offer tutoring support for Psychology 101 students in our Undergraduate Study Center to support their entry into the field and form stronger connections with our larger department.
To create a more inclusive undergraduate major and diversify the pipeline into Psychology, we revamped how we conduct undergraduate admissions. Admissions decisions used to simply reflect GPA in gateway courses. With tremendous effort from advising staff, faculty, and DSC representatives, we now have a holistic admissions process that balances GPA with an essay evaluation that provides more ways that applicants can demonstrate excellence and potential. The committee drafted the essay prompt, built a grading rubric, trained essay evaluators, evaluated the impact of these methods in terms of greater URM/Pell eligible/first generation representation among admitted students. They consulted with the CAS Educational Programs and CAS Communications offices, and OMA. After three quarters under the new system, we have increased URM representation in our major by approximately 34% over the spring 2020 figures. During Spring 2021, nearly 50% of our new majors belong to some combination of URM background, Pell grant recipient, or first-generation college student.
We have a Diversity Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty and a graduate student representative, that provides support and oversight to our faculty search committees to ensure they are using evidence-based strategies to promote the attainment of a diverse search pool. The Arts and Sciences Dean's Office funded our request to hire an RA to document Psychology's practices so that these can be shared with the broader university so others can learn from our work. Department leadership is disseminating these practices in a workshop hosted by UW's Office of Faculty Advancement.
Psychology hired five Faculty of Color to the tenure track during the 2020-21 academic year (one joined with tenure), three with endowed term professorships generated by department advancement efforts. These faculty study topics ranging from inequity to systems neuroscience, and guidance/oversight from the Diversity Advisory Committee was critical in our success with building a diverse pool and enacting strategies that avoid biases and promote equity. Our search committees also all meet with the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement, often multiple times, to increase equal opportunity. We have also mandated that all job candidates meet with our Diversity Steering Committee during their interviews and that the voice of this committee is incorporated into hiring decisions. Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement also provides DEI workshops in the department, including one focused on faculty retention, so we can work toward retaining the talented faculty joining our department. Contributions to diversity is a key criterion in our internal decision making about hiring directions, is critical in the rubrics used in all faculty searches, and is part of faculty merit reviews.
We have a DEI position on our Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), the department's executive committee. This voting position is a faculty member who is nominated by our Diversity Steering Committee whose sole focus is to represent DEI in all department decisions and policies (the other SPC members also share this goal).
We created an Associate Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Community within the department to help support the chair's office with our diversity initiatives and help create a positive culture that fosters success and inclusion and supports us in creating a culture that matches our ideals.
We created a bias reporting mechanism for Psychology that helps educate department members about the many UW and department channels by which DEI related concerns can be addressed. Our departmental reporting process is focused on learning and improving culture and is not an investigation or disciplinary channel. This reporting process fills an important gap in creating an equitable culture as many DEI complaints are microaggressions and are thus not legally protected claims, and these would thus not be adequately addressed with existing university legal compliance offices. Our internal mechanism allows us to learn where we can improve our culture and inclusivity. This group contains faculty, staff, and students, and the group created an evidence-based script for conversations about bias, and their training is led by a clinical psychologist with expertise in bias. The chair provides annual anonymized/aggregated updates on the type and frequency of complaints brought to the department as well as how the department has addressed these incidents. Several other units at UW have sought advice from us with respect to improving their own climate, and members of the committee have consulted with other universities building mechanisms like this in their own units.
The Diversity Steering Committee conducts a department-wide climate survey, assessing graduate student, faculty, and staff with respect to experiences with inclusion and exclusion in our community. The department uses these data to identify areas for improvement and to guide investments in improving department culture.
Psychology completed a three-part series of workshops with the Center for Teaching and Learning aimed at increasing inclusive practices in our classrooms. The third workshop involved the UW's Theater for Change. Psychology received a UW Diversity Seed Grant to partially support this training. We also held local trainings with in-house expertise, including Dr. Jonathan Kanter, on a variety of DEI topics.
The Diversity Steering Committee offers office hours to our community to support syllabi construction, with a focus on integrating DEI deeply into course learning.