Grad School officials strive for diversity

The corridors of the Hall of Graduate Studies may have looked the same since they were constructed in 1932, but the faces inside have evolved as the student body has become increasingly diverse.

The percentage of graduate students from ethnic minority groups in universities nationwide increased by 2 percent from 2005-’06 to 2006-’07, according to a survey released by the Council of Graduate Schools last week. The report, which surveyed 680 American institutions, including Yale, indicated that the proportion of minority graduate students jumped from 26 to 28 percent.

Administrators and students at Yale said the University is making concerted efforts to attract a broader spectrum of applicants. The percentage of minority students enrolled in the Graduate School increased from 18.6 to 18.8 percent over the years included in the study and currently stands at 19.4 percent for the 2007-2008 academic year, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

The CGS is a national organization that provides a meeting and discussion forum for graduate-school deans at member schools and compiles data on graduate-school trends.

Stuart Heiser, public affairs manager for CGS, said he cannot speculate on why individual universities exhibited higher diversity. But he said he thinks universities nationwide are focusing their efforts on recruiting diverse student bodies.

“There’s an increasing recognition amongst grad schools around the country that we need to broaden our domestic talent pool,” Heiser said.

The proportion of women in graduate schools also increased, from 58 to 59 percent. The percentage of international students and non-minority students stayed the same, the survey reported.

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said the increase in minority students at the Yale Graduate School is the result of a concerted effort by the administration.

“We have a whole diversity effort,” Butler said. “Virtually everybody has a serious commitment to trying to make graduate schools more like America. We would like for our graduate school to look much like the population with whom we live.”

Butler said a large part of this diversity is engineered by the Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, which works to recruit women, students of color and other under-represented minorities to the Graduate School.

In addition, Butler said he met three weeks ago with more than 50 of the school’s diversity representatives — faculty members from each department of the Graduate School who work to diversify the admissions pool by seeking minority applicants. The representatives have been successful in attracting an increasing number of competitive minority applicants to the Graduate School, he said.

Stephen Goot, deputy registrar of the Graduate School, said Butler has ensured diversity in the Graduate School has been given “the priority it deserves.”

Maria Baquero GRD ’08, a fellow with the ODEO, said broadening the racial lines of the Graduate School is a “critical mission” for the office.

“Diversity is not divorced from issues of power and race,” Baquero said. “That’s why we recruit minority students, support them and mentor them.”

Baquero said ODEO organizes the annual “Diversity Outreach Day” every April, at which the group hosts minority students accepted to the Graduate School, gives them a tour of Yale and answers questions. The ODEO also continues to support minority students once they enroll at Yale through a succession of optional seminars called the “Survivor Series,” she said. The seminar series gives students advice on passing qualifying exams, finding mentors and speaking to professors.

In addition, Baquero said, the directors of the ODEO act as advocates for minority applicants during the admissions process and investigate absences of diversity in different departments of the Graduate School. She said the directors examine the admissions practices of Graduate School departments that have accepted few students of color in recent years.

“There’s a cliquish atmosphere in many departments, where they may not look at students outside of those who look and sound like them,” Baquero said.

The ODEO was a co-sponsor of “The History of Hate,” a University-sponsored panel discussion on the historical origins of racism that took place Tuesday night in Sudler Hall.

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