Faculty job postings are increasingly asking for diversity statements, in addition to research and teaching statements. According to the University of California in San Diego site, “the function of the statement is to identify applicants that have professional skills, experience and/or willingness to take part in activities that would improve campus diversity and equity attempts ” (emphasis added). Generally, these statements are an opportunity for applicants to describe to a search committee the distinct experiences and commitment they bring to the table.
So, how do you write an effective diversity announcement? If you are a job candidate that cares about diversity and equity, how can you communicate that commitment to a search committee? (Note that should you not care about diversity and equity and do not want to maintain a section that does, don’t waste your time crafting a solid diversity statement and you don’t need to read any farther in this informative article.)
My first piece of advice is: do not write a throwaway motto statement. Some job applicants believe composing a diversity statement which shows they really care about equity and diversity might be too political. Thus, they compose a blasé statement about, for example, how they encourage pupils to come to class in pajamas if they feel comfy. That’s not an effective approach, because it does not show a real commitment to diversity and equity.
Obviously, it is true that lots of faculty members reject campus efforts to improve equity and diversity. However, it’s also true that search committee members who don’t care about diversity do not read diversity bills. Exactly like search members who do not care about teaching gloss over instructing statements, people who don’t care about diversity gloss over diversity statements. Write one for all those faculty members who will take the opportunity to read your announcement carefully.
I can assure you that many faculty members truly care about equity and diversity and will read your statement closely. I have been in the room when the diversity announcement of every single finalist for a job search was scrutinized. The candidates who filed powerful statements composed about their adventures teaching first-generation college students, their participation with LGBTQ student groups, their experiences teaching in inner-city high schools and their awareness of how systemic inequalities influence students’ capacity to excel.
Applicants said their schooling and activism and highlighted their commitment to diversity and equity in higher education.
Here are seven additional hints to consider as you write your diversity statement.
- Inform that your story. If you have overcome barriers to reach where you are, point those out. If, in contrast, you are privileged, acknowledge that. If you grew up walking to school carrying just two 20-pound sacks of rice on your back, by all means, tell that story. If you were raised with a silver spoon in your mouth, then acknowledge your own morals. In any event, use your narrative to describe how you’re able to empathize with students who face challenges in their way to attaining their educational objectives.
- Focus on commonly accepted understandings of equity and diversity. Focus on issues like race, gender, social class and sexual orientation. Do not try to tone your statement by writing about how it’s hard to be a Kansan at Missouri, for example. Rather, write about racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or any other commonly recognized form of oppression.
- Avoid false parallels. By that I mean do not equate the exclusion you confronted because of being a Kansan in Missouri using the exclusion an African-American faces at a primarily white establishment. You do not have to be an African American to have insight to the challenges that they face, but if you do not have experiential knowledge of racism, then do not assert it. Rather, focus on writing about that which you really do understand. If you feel comfortable getting private, you can write on your personal experiences of privilege or oppression. However, you don’t need to get personal; you may cite statistics or studies to create your points.
- Write about specific things you have done to assist students from underrepresented backgrounds triumph. In case you have never done anything to help anybody, then go out and do something. Sign up to be a mentor in an underperforming school, build a home with Habitat for Humanity or incorporate antiracist pedagogy in your teaching. Along with getting a rewarding experience, you are able to write about it on your diversity announcement.
- Highlight any applications for underrepresented students you have engaged in. If you have had any involvement with these kinds of programs (e.g., McNair Scholars Program), clarify that involvement on your statement. This involvement can either be a former player or as a mentor or advisor to someone who has engaged. Such specific examples reveal that you understand what successful programs look like and how they work.
- Write on your commitment to working toward achieving equity and improving diversity. Describe specific methods you are eager to contribute. You can mention your willingness to donate to pre-existing programs on the campus or you can express interest in creating new programs based on models at other campuses.
- Modify your announcement based on where you are sending it. Your announcement to get a land-grant institution in the rural South shouldn’t be the exact same that you send into an elite institution in metropolitan California. Look up the demographics of this institution to which you are applying and mention those demographics in your statement. For example, if the college you are applying to is a Hispanic-serving institution, you should be aware of that.
Diversity statements are a relatively new addition to the work application packet. Thus, search committees are still creating evaluation tools for such statements, and many campuses lack clear guidelines.
Nevertheless, you can use this novelty to Your Benefit by writing a leading statement that emphasizes your record of contributions to diversity and equity as well as your dedication to future attempts.
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