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Inclusiveness as a Value in Graduate Education at Duke

Dean Paula D. McClain has devoted a great deal of her scholarly efforts to the study of race, ethnicity, and gender, and in particular how they operate within the context of politics. Now, as Dean of The Graduate School, her sense of the importance of diversity and inclusion is already being demonstrated in new initiatives and events that celebrate and promote inclusion.

To its array of existing measures and programs supporting diversity and inclusiveness, Dean McClain has recently added the Dean’s Award for Inclusive Excellence in Graduate Education. The Graduate School is committed to supporting a welcoming and engaging community for all of its students, and this award is intended to recognize and reward departments, programs, and initiatives that create environments that demonstrate exemplary inclusiveness and diversity as fundamental values. For the purposes of the award, inclusive excellence refers not only to demographics, but to the tangible and intangible support students receive, including the climate of the department or program, its curriculum, intellectual discourse, and recruitment, as well as in the retention and graduation rates of students who are traditionally underrepresented in the discipline. Award recipients will be honored at a spring reception, and will also receive a $5,000 cash award.

Another initiative recognizing and supporting the ideals of diversity and inclusion can be seen in the first-ever Reception Celebrating the LGBTQ Communities & Allies, sponsored by The Graduate School and the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. All graduate students and faculty were invited and encouraged to attend the celebration, which will be an annual fall event.

In keeping with President Brodhead’s goal of building a “culture of equity, opportunity, inclusiveness, and respect at the university,” Dean McClain has also cast her eye on The Graduate School itself. She has established a series of workshops with the Office of Institutional Equity for Graduate School staff. One workshop, “Identifying and Reducing Subtle Bias,” focused on how to understand the subtle nature of bias, which must be recognized before it can be challenged and individual perceptions (and self-perceptions) altered. This particular workshop presented ideas that Mahzarin Banaji, Harvard professor and author of “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People,” shared in her visit to Duke’s campus the preceding semester. This staff development helps to equip those who work closely with all members of the graduate community with information that will help them become even more effective representatives of The Graduate School and reflect its commitment to a diverse population.

These additions to The Graduate School’s long-standing recognition and support of diversity, such as The Faculty and Student of Color Reception, now in its twenty-sixth year; the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) for underrepresented students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D.; the Dean’s Graduate Fellowships; and recruitment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and colleges and consortia that focus on expanding the pool of students from underrepresented groups all contribute to the evolution of The Graduate School as a place where the ideal of inclusiveness is fully realized.