Headshot of Lisa Garcia Bedolla

So much of graduate students’ experience at UC Berkeley comes down to the day-to-day — the faculty, staff, and student interactions that can both lift you up and bring you down. While my staff, myself and university leaders are collaborating to make university systems and policies as welcoming and equitable as possible, much of new and continuing students’ satisfaction with their educational experience relates directly to their department’s culture.

With graduate students attending UC Berkeley from 106 countries and all 50 U.S. states, it is essential that the campus community work together to improve or maintain a positive educational climate. For faculty, students and staff, in addition to being generous and kind to students and colleagues, here are some tips to encourage and sustain a welcoming environment in your department.

Use inclusive language.

Language is a powerful tool for communicating inclusivity. Inclusive language acknowledges diverse experiences, conveys respect to all people, and promotes equitable opportunities. This refers to language used in all forms of communication, including emails, social media, websites, as well as in everyday conversations. Written communications should be free from words, phrases, or tones that demean, insult, or exclude people based on their membership within a certain group or because of a particular attribute. Here is an excellent resource on using inclusive language.

Make diversity and inclusion initiatives visible, and support them with resources.

Provide visible spaces for students to be their full, authentic selves as they excel in their academic communities. This means creating opportunities for students to gather based on affinity, race, gender identity, interests and/or religion, and providing dedicated funds and staff time to support workshops, meetings, and/or other community-building spaces.

Offer training opportunities.

Diversity and inclusion educational opportunities are offered universitywide at UC Berkeley, with a variety of presentations, workshops and outreach opportunities available to students, faculty and staff. Consider bringing a trained facilitator into your department to work with faculty, staff or student groups. Visit the Division of Equity and Inclusion‘s website for upcoming workshops and programs.

Support inclusive educational and professional networking.

Facilitate professional and faculty mentoring opportunities, both on- and off-campus. Help students connect with the centers, programs, and organizations of their choice, and ask for feedback after hosting or facilitating any connections.

Encourage students to report discrimination and harassment.

The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination accepts reports alleging discrimination and harassment on the basis of categories including race, color, national origin, gender identity, age, sexual orientation/identity, including allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence. By encouraging and empowering students to understand their right to report any incidents, departments can help foster an equitable learning and working environment for all.

As always, we welcome suggestions for how to improve the graduate student experience. Feel free to contact Larissa Charnsangavej, Director of Graduate Student Life, at [email protected] with ideas and suggestions.


Lisa García Bedolla

Vice Provost for Graduate Studies
and Dean of the Graduate Division