Graduate Diversity Task Force

About the Task Force

In September 2019, the university formed a Graduate Student Diversity Task Force to assess, develop, and implement a coordinated campuswide strategy to expand the diversity of the Berkeley graduate student body. Over the past nine months, this committee has evaluated evidence-based research and set forth preliminary recommendations —both broad and specific —to increase the enrollment of underrepresented, low socioeconomic status, and first-generation graduate students and to improve the campus experience and academic outcomes for underrepresented graduate students across all of our graduate programs.

We use “diversity” broadly to refer not only to underrepresented demographics and protected classes, but also to be inclusive of the experiences of disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, undocumented students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and first-generation college students.

There are already many dedicated faculty, staff, and students who are working to address many of the issues we raise and implement strategies we recommend. We hope to further build on their successes and raise the bar across campus.

Finally, while most of the recommendations are geared towards central campus administration and departments, the Academic Senate has significant policy and cultural influence on campus and thus must be a critical stakeholder should the university aim to achieve its goals regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Broad Recommendations

  1. Institute meaningful accountability mechanisms at the college, school and department level that improve the infrastructure, support, and assessment of climate for graduate students.
  2. Invest resources in programs, institutions, and initiatives that support academic preparation, retention, and holistic well-being.
  3. Articulate a consistent message of inclusivity and belonging that places diversity at the very heart of our academic excellence.


Outreach & Recruitment

  • Prioritize resources to expand pipeline programs and summer research opportunities for prospective and admitted students, as well as undergraduate courses that strengthen graduate school readiness and provide opportunities for apprenticeships with faculty.
  • Expand recruitment networks within the California State University and University of California systems, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions.
  • Support departments with their outreach and communications by developing templates and inclusive website language that incorporate universal design.


  • Develop a shared list of admissions principles and practices that center academic excellence, value underrepresented perspectives, affirm a commitment to provide equitable access and funding, and establish an inclusive foundation for the future of each discipline.
  • Disseminate educational materials for admissions chairs, committees, and equity advisors on stereotyping, confirmation bias, implicit bias, gender bias, and context of achievement.
  • Coordinate with Graduate Division, Equity Advisors and department admissions committees to take contributions to diversity into consideration from the earliest stages of recruitment and admissions.

Student Experience

  • Establish a funding model for graduate students that is equitable, reliable, and promotes student security, well-being and mental health.
  • Promote practices that create clear expectations and program structures, including holistic mentoring practices that support academic success and foster a culture of well-being.
  • Institute accountability mechanisms to improve local-level infrastructure, support, and assessment of climate for graduate students.

Core Findings

  • Trends in applicant demographics have remained flat over the past five application cycles across many fields, despite changing demographics of graduating undergraduate classes (Graduate Program Reports)
  • Graduate admissions and recruitment is highly decentralized and various programs often operate on different cycles and timelines.
  • Some schools and programs have been able to successfully attract and admit more diverse cohorts by incorporating intentional recruiting and holistic review (Graduate Program Reports, Department Equity & Inclusion Plans)

Recommendations: Marketing and Communications

  • Support departments in their messaging efforts based on a comprehensive branded marketing plan.
    • Provide customizable templates for brochures and web pages and incorporate principles of universal design
  • Information about the value of graduate education should be enhanced through greater coordination among Graduate Division, Public Affairs, and Schools and Colleges.
  • Develop funding guides to make the process of funding doctoral education more transparent.

Recommendations: Academic Preparation and Early Outreach

  • Expand the number and reach of Signature Pipeline Programs.
  • Expand research opportunities in summer programs and undergraduate courses on campus.
  • Continue to strengthen and institutionalize partnerships with the Center for Educational Partnerships, the UC Transfer Centers, and minority-serving institutions to fill gaps in academics and research experiences.

Recommendations: Recruiting Prospective Applicants

  • Invest in databases, research, and other tools to identify potential applicants and reach them more strategically.
  • Programs should systematically leverage and build upon relationships to develop more recruiting networks within the UC system, the CSU system, and at minority-serving institutions.
  • Explore the feasibility and cost of hosting “Preview Days” in the Fall or producing branded Berkeley promotional materials
  • Support college, school and department outreach efforts.

Recommendations: Yield

  • Use best practices from the field for communicating with students upon application.
  • Invest in more equitable funding for yield events at the college, school and department levels (where appropriate).
  • Increase coordination, collaboration, and resources for campus units and other departments to align visit weekends and Diversity Day.
  • Elevate the roles and participation of current students and alumni in recruitment and yield events.

Core Findings

  • Each department has a different admissions process, which creates barriers to standardization.
    • Academic freedom: faculty buy-in is critical
    • Although best practices have been developed in some departments, this has not led to significant campus-wide changes in overall enrollment of diverse graduate students
  • Departments do not universally or consistently factor diversity in the early stages of admissions processes.
  • Unintended barriers to access exist.
    • Application fees, over-reliance on GRE, disability accommodations
  • Without clear evaluative scripts, admissions is subject to bias.
    • Over-reliance on common performance metrics reinforces implicit bias and can lead to disparate outcomes.
  • Current enrollment management and fellowship awarding practices place the burden of over-enrollment on units.

Recommendations: Admissions

Guidance to Graduate Division

  • Consistent messaging from Graduate Division and Equity & Inclusion.
    • Review policy language to emphasize diversity and inclusion as a component of academic excellence.
    • Diversity also includes disability and other dimensions; including people of all diverse backgrounds requires more understanding and planning to ensure equitable access to education.
  • Provide critical guidance to admissions and fellowship committees.
    • Develop our own educational materials on stereotyping, confirmation bias, implicit bias, gender bias, context of achievement, disability accommodations etc.
    • Disseminate best practices and diversity resources to committee chairs.
  • Evaluate and assess the outcomes of the multi-year fellowships competition.

Guidance to Faculty and Department Admissions Committees

  • Reconsider the composition of admissions committees.
    • Consider including graduate students, who are key stakeholders and represent the future of the field.
  • Advise departments to implement carefully designed rubrics incorporating holistic review.
    • Think boldly about evaluation criteria and examine assumptions about merit before starting the evaluation process.
    • Include “Broader Impacts” as a rating category.
    • Provide institutional templates in SLATE.
  • Recommend a study evaluating predictive metrics for success.
    • Letters of recommendation, personal statements and writing samples, previous lab and undergraduate research experience

Application Requirements

  • Expand access to fee waivers (including low socioeconomic status international students.)
  • Advise departments to be flexible on GRE requirements.
  • Ensure online applications and websites incorporate universal design.
  • Include proactive communications about accommodations for virtual interviews.
  • Provide clear prompts with explicit instructions for written statements and essay questions.

Core Findings

Mentorship and Advising

  • UR students are overall less likely to be satisfied with the current level and quality of mentorship and advising (2019 My Experience Survey)
  • Graduate students indicate wanting more advice about applying for jobs and professional and career development (2019 My Experience Survey)

Basic Needs

  • UR graduate students (especially those who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, and disabled) report higher rates of food and housing insecurity. (2019 My Experience Survey)
  • About 15% of graduate student respondents self-identified as experiencing homelessness since coming to UC Berkeley, with 54% reporting being homeless between 1 week to a month. (2017 Housing Task Force Survey)


  • 44% of graduate students met the screening threshold for depression that would suggest further clinical inquiry, with higher rates for many UR groups. (2019 My Experience Survey)
  • Additionally, 54% met the screening threshold for anxiety that would suggest further clinical inquiry

Overall Campus Climate

  • UR graduate students report more experiences with exclusionary and bullying behavior, lack of respect, as well as less comfort with overall climate; this is perpetuated by faculty and peers


  • UR graduate students (especially transgender/nonconforming students and African American/Black students) are less likely to agree that UCPD can be trusted to have their best interests in mind

Recommendations: Mentoring + Advising

Clear Expectations and Program Structures

  • Graduate Student Handbooks should be held to a campus-level standard that includes communication of program milestones and timelines, as well as campus resources.
  • Conduct Academic Progress Reviews on an annual basis, with ongoing reevaluation of plans for student support.
  • Advisors and students should complete advising agreements that outline expectations for the advising relationship, including meeting frequency, communication preferences, and work styles.

Cultivating Holistic Mentoring Practices

  • Develop an onboarding program for new faculty hires on graduate teaching, mentorship, and advising
  • Conduct annual reviews of faculty mentorship and advising and incorporate climate questions into the tenure and promotional review process
  • Create an incentives program for faculty to participate in ongoing trainings on teaching, mentorship, advising, and recognizing/correcting implicit bias

Professional School Advising

  • Develop more robust advising plans to help guide students on how to pursue particular tracks in their fields, such as public interest

Cross-Institutional Mentoring and Community Building

  • Create opportunities for interdisciplinary mentoring, advising, and community building, modeled on the NSF’s “Third Space Model” whereby students share work, develop professional contacts, and engage in a space that is not the campus or department
  • Provide campus-level support for affinity-based mentorship groups

Recommendations: Basic Needs


  • Establish a funding model for doctoral students that is equitable, reliable, and promotes doctoral student security and wellbeing
    • Development and reassessment of the model should include consideration of factors such as:
      • Cost of living
      • Impacts of enrollment on diversity of cohorts
      • Increased flexibility in combining funding sources and fellowships
    • Reconsider policies governing normative time and teaching limits for disabled students
  • Establish a model for intentional Masters’-to-PhD bridge programs that would also provide UR students equitable, reliable, and adequate funding

University Housing

  • Include more graduate student input when considering increases to university-owned-and-operated housing stock
  • Review and redesign housing policies, waitlists, and assignment practices to allow for alternative contract lengths and increased transparency
  • Explore possibilities to provide prioritized housing for disabled students

Housing Financial Support and Access

  • Create a housing liaison to assist students in finding suitable housing, especially for students coming from out of the area or students who would require physical accommodations
  • Supplement financial assistance for housing and transportation costs

Basic Needs and Emergency Support Resources

  • Collaborate to create a singular, central application for emergency and basic needs support
  • Develop a screening process to identify students who are more likely to be basic needs insecure and mobilize resources and communication strategically and proactively
  • Identify and address program and structural barriers that limit graduate student access to existing basic needs resources

Recommendations: Wellness

Increase availability of and access to culturally competent mental health services

  • Expand on satellite office model and increase presence in spaces trafficked by UR graduate students
  • Provide targeted financial support to UR students for mental health and wellbeing services

Destigmatize conversations about mental health and reject the valorization of adversity as part of the graduate student experience

  • Host regular fireside chats on graduate student mental health to continue to encourage open, candid dialogue
  • Develop department-level programming and messaging sharing faculty experiences with mental health and disability, explicitly naming issues, and advocating for a compassion-driven framework

Recommendations: Campus Climate

  • Task existing diversity initiatives to review goals and progress on graduate student needs (e.g., African American Initiative, HSI Doctoral Diversity Initiative, Disability and Accessibility Planning) to ensure alignment and consistency.
  • Improve local-level infrastructure, support, and assessment of climate for graduate students
    • Support and hold departments accountable to building out internal equity and inclusion committees to identify climate issues in their departments and develop and implement department-specific plans
    • Develop 10 pilot field-specific cluster groups to foster peer-to-peer support
  • Conduct a review of building facilities for accessible and gender-inclusive facilities
  • Increase trained staff resources to address climate and retention issues with mediations and restorative justice practices

Recommendations: Policing

Continue to build on earlier initiatives announced by UCPD, including:

  • Evaluate potential alternatives for relocation of UCPD from Sproul Hall
  • Conduct independent assessments on the effectiveness and impact of current training programs in working with communities of color
  • Implement trainings and protocols for alternative safety practices
  • Invest in expansion of alternative community programs for safety services

Recommendations: Employment

  • Develop a central posting system for Graduate Student Instructor and Graduate Student Researcher appointments
    • While priority may go to internal candidates, a central posting system provides equitable access to employment opportunities
  • Investigate Graduate Student Instructor and Graduate Student Researcher step inequities across departments and academic units

Recommendations: Communications

  • Review and assess campus procedures for communications in response to timely issues
    • Timeliness and transparency build trust during times of crisis
  • Inventory and align communications for critical information about basic needs, mental health and wellness resources

  • Office of Planning & Analysis. (2017). 2017 Student Housing Survey Findings. Retrieved from
  • Updates on campus policing initiatives. (2020, January 30). Updates on campus policing initiatives.
  • Crosby, J. R., & Monin, B. (2007). Failure to warn: How student race affects warnings of potential academic difficulty. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43(4), 663–670. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2006.06.007
  • Eppig, A. (2019). Uc Berkeley My Experience Survey 2019 Preliminary Findings.
  • Fisher, A. J., Mendoza-Denton, R., Patt, C., Young, I., Eppig, A., Garrell, R. L., … Richards, M. A. (2019). Structure and belonging: Pathways to success for underrepresented minority and women PhD students in STEM fields. Plos One, 14(1). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209279
  • Leitner, J. B., Ayduk, Ö., Boykin, C. M., & Mendoza-Denton, R. (2018). Reducing negative affect and increasing rapport improve interracial mentorship outcomes. Plos One, 13(4). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194123
  • Mendoza-Denton, R., Patt, C., Fisher, A., Eppig, A., Young, I., Smith, A., & Richards, M. A. (2017). Differences in STEM doctoral publication by ethnicity, gender and academic field at a large public research university. Plos One, 12(4). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174296
  • Posselt, J. R. (2016). Inside graduate admissions: merit, diversity, and faculty gatekeeping. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Prahlad, A., Pluta-Ehlers, A., & Rasool, A. (2017). Best Practices in Graduate Student Recruitment. (A. Lockhart, J. Russell-Black, & J. Wells, Eds.). Hanover Research.
  • Smith, A. K. (n.d.). Graduate Program Reports 2018.
  • Stachl, C. N., Hartman, E. C., Wemmer, D. E., & Francis, M. B. (2019). Grassroots Efforts to Quantify and Improve the Academic Climate of an R1 STEM Department: Using Evidence-Based Discussions to Foster Community. Journal of Chemical Education, 96(10). doi: DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b00163