Photo of students at 2019 GradFest
Photo: Kelley Cox Photography

In July 2020, Vice Provost Lisa García Bedolla and fellow Graduate Division staff convened a working group to meet with Black graduate students and hear their concerns and suggestions about increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at Cal.

Using what we heard in that forum, together with what other students and departments have shared with us in the past and the recommendations of the Graduate Diversity Task Force, we worked to co-create a set of concrete initiatives, focused on areas within our purview, that would begin to address needs of graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Within the first year of launching these initiatives, we were thrilled to have met all the goals originally outlined, and have addressed some of the structural pipeline challenges to recruiting and supporting a diverse student body. But there is still much work to be done, and our division looks forward to continuing to partner with students and the rest of our campus community to make Cal a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion for graduate students.

Diversity Admissions Fair

In a coordinated effort with academic departments, the Graduate Division processed a record high number of applications last admissions cycle, with the most substantial increases coming from historically underrepresented students.

While overall graduate applications have increased 19 percent when compared to the previous  year, the number of underrepresented minority (URM) doctoral applicants increased by 42 percent and URM applicants to academic master’s programs increased by 82 percent. 

Working with programs across UC Berkeley to coalesce what had, until that point, been a relatively decentralized admissions recruitment process, we organized our 2nd annual Graduate Diversity Admissions Fair. This year’s weeklong October virtual event, engaged a broader and even more diverse crowd, with 3195 virtual attendees and 68 participating departments, hosting over 70 sessions for prospective students, supporting our goal to significantly increase diversity recruitment.

Diversity & Community Fellows Program

The Diversity and Community Fellows, individually and collectively, work to advance and implement the diversity and inclusion goals of the Office for Graduate Diversity and the Graduate Division.

The Diversity and Community Fellows work across and within academic units to create healthy communities for graduate students. Critical components of this work include supporting an inclusive graduate community and enhancing the cultural, academic, and professional experience of historically underrepresented students at Berkeley.

In 2020, the inaugural cohort of 18 Diversity and Community Fellows worked to support an inclusive graduate community and enhance the cultural, academic, and professional experience of their peers. Fellows provide mentoring and support by holding office hours for current and prospective students and enhance cross-campus and outreach initiatives through events such as “Anti-Racism in the Academy” and a “Mardi-Grad Send-Off” for graduating students. This year’s cohort of 20 fellows began their term in August 2021.

Graduate Diversity Pilot Program

In July of 2020, the Graduate Division established the Graduate Diversity Pilot Program, awarding a total of $1.5 million in grants to nine departments across campus. This substantial commitment — one of the largest single financial investments toward diversity efforts made by any graduate division in the nation — specifically seeks to support and improve departmental climate for graduate and undergraduate students, staff, faculty (including lecturers), and postdocs; faculty graduate student mentorship; and diversity in graduate outreach and admissions. With the first round of funding, the awardee departments — Architecture, Chemistry (including Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), Comparative Literature, Geography, History, Integrative Biology, Linguistics, the School of Information (I School), and Sociology — have begun making progress. Read about each department’s progress.

Supporting Climate-Related Programs Across Campus

The Graduate Division remains committed to collaborating with other units on larger structural changes. Below are a few of these campus collaborations and funding opportunities.

  • The Graduate Division is partnering with Berkeley Engineering’s Empower program to help them expand their programming to more departments and to develop new workshops to advance anti-racism and improve the climate on campus.
  • Through the Dean’s Graduate Diversity Innovation Fund, the Graduate Division has provided financial support to programs to advance anti-racism initiatives in support of graduate student and the department as a whole. Read about how five graduate students in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management used these funds for their course, open to graduate students, faculty and staff.
  • The Black Graduate Collective Fellowship is a joint partnership between Graduate Division and EVCP to support Black graduate students.

Annual Awards in Recognition of Institutional Change

The Graduate Division established an annual award to graduate students acknowledging significant work in creating and/or facilitating anti-racism initiatives within their programs or in support of fellow graduate students. The Graduate Division began soliciting nominations in fall 2021 for the inaugural awards.

In addition to the diversity promised outlined above, I wanted to also highlight just a few of the other programs the Graduate Division and Office for Graduate Diversity has supported and/or launched over the past year.

Professional Development Pipelines

Path to the Professoriate Program

In Fall 2020, the Office for Graduate Diversity launched the Path to the Professoriate Program to engage 40 first-year Ph.D. students from underrepresented backgrounds in workshops and structured activities around demystifying the route in their discipline to the Assistant Professorship and establishing and building a publication pipeline. Participants created individualized roadmaps for their journey to the professoriate as well as individualized publication workflows. Now in its second year, the program welcomed a diverse cohort of 98 Ph.D. students.

Future of Higher Education Postdoctoral Fellowships

UC Berkeley launched a new postdoctoral fellowship program designed to expose participants to and prepare them for careers in higher education administration. The Future of Higher Education Postdoctoral Fellowship Program seeks to address the need for career pipelines and pathways beyond the professoriate, and the critical lack of diversity in higher education leadership. Fellows began their tenure on July 1, 2021. Read more about this unique postdoctoral fellowship.


The Office for Graduate Diversity hosted or partnered with other campus organizations to host 85 virtual events during the 2020-21 academic year, including 34 events for prospective students, 48 events for current graduate students, 3 events for staff and faculty. More than half of these events were held with external partners (e.g., Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, Black Graduate Engineering and Science Students, Native American Student Development, First-Generation Low-income Graduate Students, Undocumented Students Program, and GradPro).

Dr. Denzil Streete is the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Chief of Staff in the Graduate Division. He joined UC Berkeley in July 2020 from Yale University.