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Question: How do I write the diversity statement for an academic job application? Based on my experience and/or my general attitude toward diversity and inclusion?
Answer from Emily Allen Williams: The diversity statement as an element of the higher education job application is relatively new yet rapidly becoming more integral to decision-making processes for search committees. It also has become a key decision-making metric for hiring managers. While the curriculum vitae, cover letter/statement of interest, and professional references remain the foundation of the higher education application, institutions that have developed diversity statements as part of their strategic plan and implemented diversity initiatives and programming pursuant to the goals within their strategic plans, will require the applicant to submit a diversity statement.
Where do you begin?
Several questions may come to mind as you grapple with the entryway into your diversity statement:
- Should you write/speak to the diversity focus and statement of the institution to which you are applying?
- How do you avoid a philosophically-saturated statement that cannot be substantiated through lived and documentable experiences?
- Will your diversity statement [potentially] emerge as a disqualifying element of an otherwise strong application?
The most direct approach in avoiding complications and a ‘slippery slope’ in your diversity statement is a focus on [your] authenticity within a focus on the institution’s expressed platform on diversity.
Pause for several minutes before you begin writing and remember that you are applying to a specific institution because 1) you are interested in and highly qualified for the offered position and 2) you see yourself as significantly contributing to the institution as articulated in its strategic plan(s), goals, and the implementation and outcomes of the articulated goals. Put another way, you need not only pause but also “do your homework” on the institution’s current and historical approaches to creating diversified and equitable academic workspaces for teaching, learning, research, and related programming.
Here are a few areas to research while doing your homework:
- What are the demographics of the student population, faculty, and staff?
- What are the demographics of the area in which the institution resides?
- Does the institution have an office that is dedicated to and designed to support and implement initiatives on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging?
- Is a diversity statement integral to the institution’s mission statement, strategic plan, and academic plan? How long has the institution foregrounded its diversity statement?
- What are the institution’s current policies, initiatives, and programs that promote equity, inclusion, and belonging within a diversity framework?
After determining where the institution is seated around these queries, you can begin to write your diversity statement leaning in with authenticity. It also is important that your diversity statement reflects an alignment with the equity and inclusion experiences in your curriculum vitae. This is the opportunity — your application moment — to reflect on your past, present, and future work that has and will contribute to promoting equitable and inclusive higher education workspaces within diversity frameworks.
What position are you applying for — teaching professor, research professor, chair, dean, vice president, provost, et al.?
If you are applying for a faculty position, hiring eyes will be focused on your experiences working with diverse student populations, as well as work with diverse faculty and support staff populations. How do you approach equity, inclusion, and belonging within the framework of diversity both within and outside the classroom (physical and virtual)? What are your experiences in working collegially with a diverse teaching and academic support staff as well as diverse supervisors? How are your teaching and research processes equitable and inclusive?
If you are applying for a higher education executive position, the expectations for a clearly articulated diversity statement will have a wider reach in terms of your equity, inclusion, and belonging understanding and demonstrated ability. A focus will reside on how clearly you can articulate and demonstrate [through a few carefully selected experiences] how you have worked well within the framework of diversity across the institutional internal and external communities (students, faculty, support staff, union representatives, board of trustees, and local/area constituencies).
There are, of course, some key things to remember and some to avoid when writing your diversity statement:
- Avoid “inventing and/or embellishing” your work with diverse populations and/or equitable and inclusive work practices; excessive rhetoric that will not translate into reality if you are hired can create career complications.
- Avoid inserting notable quotes about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging if they do not align with your experiences; write your truth in your own words.
- Remember to give yourself some grace; if you have not previously worked within a significantly diverse higher education setting, be honest. Write your diversity statement toward any research and trainings you have engaged in to promote your understanding and future implementation of equitable and inclusive strategies and initiatives in the position you are seeking at the institution.
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