Drafting a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Statement

Why Should I Write a DEI Statement?

As UT professors Charlotte Canning and Richard Reddick wrote in their Chronicle of Higher Education piece, "...the exercise of writing, reviewing, and committing to a statement of equity, diversity, and inclusion can be instructive to all members of the academic community, not only those who hold marginalized identities." In fact, much of the work around service, mentoring, and research has been disproportionately shouldered by historically marginalized persons at universities, creating a "cultural taxation" (Padilla, 1994) on the often-invisible labor they perform. Canning and Reddick state, "[in] response, the university must acknowledge that diversity work is in fact critical to the values that have led to progress - and that it must be shared by all members in the academic community." Reflecting and committing to paper what your goals, actions, and plans around diversity, equity, and inclusion are just one of the ways in which you can advance these efforts. Writing a DEI statement can promote further reflection on the strategies you use in your teaching, exhibit how you engage in DEI efforts through your service, research and mentorship, and reveal opportunities for commitment that you might want to explore more.

As institutions become more intentional in their efforts to create and uphold practices regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion on college campuses, faculty and graduate students are invited to explain how their experiences and values align with the institution, the students they serve, and their broader efforts in the community. Dr. Tabbye Chavous explains:

Asking faculty candidates to submit statements about how equity, diversity, and inclusion factor into their teaching, research and service as exercising truth in advertising. It doesn't quite make sense to affirm diversity as underpinning the institutional mission, while not giving candidates the opportunity to talk about and be credited for their efforts. (as quoted in Flaherty, 2018)

In short, everyone has something to contribute. No matter one's research area, discipline, or various intersecting social identities, each person should think about and articulate how advancing issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion are apparent in their work and future initiatives. 

 

What Should I Include in My DEI Statement?

A DEI statement will ideally address multiple facets of how your values and experiences advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work.  It is customary to write the statement in first person.  Given the brief amount of time reviewers may have to look at your application, the statement should be a maximum of two-pages in length (single-spaced) and include an introductory paragraph, topic sentences that capture the main point of each paragraph, and a conclusion that ties the distinct facets of your statement together as a whole. Refrain from using buzzwords, jargon, or vague statements (e.g., "I love working with all students").

To aid you in writing your DEI statement, we have provided brief descriptions of five different topics to consider addressing in your statement below. There are no requirements that you must address all of these topics, and you are not limited to only discussing these perspectives. Your statement should reflect the relative importance of these issues to your work and reveal your personal commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What does diversity, equity, and/or inclusion mean to you?

First, clarify what these terms mean to you. Avoid repeating these terms instead of defining and contextualizing them. Explain the intrinsic value of diversity, equity, and/or inclusion in your work and in higher education. Avoid using broad, ambiguous descriptions about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Even if you do not explicitly define each of these terms, be clear so readers have a shared understanding about how you understand diversity, equity, and inclusion. You may contextualize pressing issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion in your discipline.

How do you prioritize and value diversity, equity, and inclusion in your teaching? 

Describe how you create inclusive and equitable learning environments for your students. You may describe frameworks you utilize when designing courses and assignments. Explain some of the teaching strategies you use to make your classroom accessible and inclusive. Also, what knowledge, skills, or attitudes do you seek to foster in your students and how do they relate to DEI? If you provide multiple ways for students express their knowledge, describe those strategies and why you use them. You may also describe how you assess whether or not your teaching strategies ensure that students' learning needs are met.

In what ways are diversity, equity, and inclusion apparent in your research or scholarly work?

If your research addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, describe them here. If you work with marginalized populations in your research, explain how your research advances knowledge and addresses equity in different communities. Describe how you respectfully engage in that research and how you honor those communities in your scholarship. 

How have you shown commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond your classroom?

Highlight your service and mentoring experience. If you have examples of serving on committees, participating in community outreach, or volunteer work, describe them here. Share some of your accomplishments or lessons learned from those experiences. If you have mentored underrepresented students, explain what you have learned from those relationships and how you will continue mentoring others. Review what you have written and make sure you are not tokenizing these experiences, especially if they are limited, and not overgeneralizing or making claims about a group of students from these examples. 

How do you envision this commitment will develop in the future?

Here, explain how you will continue your work in the future. If there are initiatives or programs in which you would like to participate, describe how your involvement may amplify the work that is already being done. Do you plan on starting a new initative or program that aligns with your interests and expertise? If you plan on pursuing trainings, workshops, or professional development opportunities to grow in DEI, what are they? (Be realistic and authentic.) If you are using this document as part of a job market application, contextualize your goals with your future institution and the population of learners whom they educate. Contributing to DEI efforts is an iterative and ongoing process, and your statement should reflect how you will keep growing.

In addition to the five aspects listed above, take a step back and consider your statement from a holistic perspective.  Have you also considered…

…telling a compelling, respectful story?

Research about teaching philosophy statements states they should be vivid portrait of how a person is intentional about teaching practices and committed to career” (Chism, 1998).  DEI statements are similar; it is a chance to communicate a holistic picture of who you are and the actions you take around diversity, equity, and inclusion that may not normally be captured in other materials like teaching or research statements. Ask others for honest feedback and discuss how you might improve your statement.

…incorporating concrete examples? 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion statements are not vague, philosophical documents. Include specific details and concrete examples; it should be an evidence-based account of your growth, best practices, ability and potential. 

…navigating self-disclosure in your statement? 

Some may wonder how much personal information they should disclose about themselves when writing these statements. There is not a universal answer for this question.  Those who hold social identities that have been historically marginalized may choose not to disclose that information, as personal biases are shown to affect evaluation of written application materials (see: Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). If you do want to discuss your social identity, consider discussing your identity and the impact of your identity on your work, interests, and actions (Sylvester et al., 2019). For example, you might state: “My experience as a member of an underrepresented group has helped me build a toolkit for mentoring students who face similar challenges based on their identity" (Morris, 2018, slide 13). If you share a story about yourself, do not draw false parallels between your own experience and that of others.

…the multi-faceted components of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Just as the terms "diversity" "equity" and "inclusion" are broad terms, there are many facets  you may choose to explore. Beyond student demographic information, how is diversity apparent in the institution's mission and values? What barriers exist in working towards inclusion in curriculum? How are you prepared to share and amplify the work of others? 

Meet With a Consultant to Review Your Statement

We offer one-on-one consultations for teaching statements and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements. We bridge our pedagogical expertise with evidence-based practices to help you convey your teaching values and the instructional choices you make to help students achieve learning goals.

In order to maximize our time together, we require you to upload a draft of your statement so we may review it ahead of time. We welcome drafts at various stages in your writing process and offer feedback and suggestions for continued improvement. Schedule your consultation here

 

References

Canning, C. & Reddick, R., (11 January, 19). In Defense of Diversity Statements. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/In-Defense-of-Diversity/245463

Flaherty, C. (18, November 19). Breaking Down Diversity Statements. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/11/19/new-paper-explores-what-faculty-candidates-include-their-diversity-equity-and

Moss-Racusin, C. A., Dovidio, J. F., Brescoll, V. L., Graham, M. J., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(41), 16474-16479.

Padilla, A. M. (1994). Research news and comment: Ethnic minority scholars; research, and mentoring: Current and future issues. Educational Researcher, 23(4), 24-27.

Morris, Z. (2018). Writing a diversity statement for academic jobs [PowerPoint slides]. Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Georgia. https://ctl.uga.edu/_resources/documents/Introduction_to_Writing_Diversity_Statements.pdf

Sylvester, C.-Y., Sánchez-Parkinson, L., Yettaw, M., & Chavous, T. (2019). The promise of diversity statements: Insights and a framework developed from faculty applications. Currents, 1(1), 151-170.  http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/currents.17387731.0001.112

 

Appreciation for Content Contributors

We would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Richard Reddick, Mariama Nagbe, and Kaitlyn Farrell Rodriguez for their contributions in different stages of consulting, developing, and editing content for this resource.