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Being a responsible and respectful colleague, researcher, and community member requires developing important skills in equity and inclusion. These skills will enable you to understand and counter systemic barriers to equity, work with collaborators and colleagues from diverse backgrounds, and advocate for the inclusion of individuals faced with racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, sizeism, and other forms of discrimination. Each of these are valuable skills for a variety of career paths. This section of the guide explores opportunities and resources available to help you develop skills in equity and inclusion, including a collection of relevant resources from the Office for Graduate Diversity (OGD), and other on- and off-campus offices and organizations.
Taking time to think deeply and personally about issues of identity, inequity, discrimination, and privilege will help you to understand how you can contribute to equity and inclusion throughout your academic and non-academic work. The ability to read, listen, learn, and understand with empathy and critical thinking are skills that will enable this process, and that will serve you in graduate school and your career.
Systems of discrimination, oppression, and privilege are complex and often entrenched in everyday practices and beliefs. Understanding these systems, and your own place within them, is a long-term project that will be different for every individual and evolve over time. Depending on your own positionality and identity, you may find that you need to put particular effort into learning about some systems of discrimination that are unfamiliar to you, and less time understanding systems of which you have more knowledge or experience.
A great place to start is taking the time to review and understand resources that explain these historical systems, including books, articles, films, podcasts and interviews. For example, to better understand systemic racism, consider starting with the book Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi or the New York Times podcast series “1619.” To learn about the deep history of white supremacy in America, consider listening to the podcast series “Scene on Radio: Seeing White,” or start learning about the history of anti-Indigenous practices in America by reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. To learn more about fatphobia and sizeism, you can start with this short Scientific American piece titled “Fat is Not the Problem–Fat Stigma Is,” or to learn more about the racist history of sizeism, consider reading the book Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings. The Division of Equity and Inclusion (DEI)’s list “Read, Watch, Listen, Engage” offers many additional resources for doing this important learning.
Systems of bias and discrimination also operate within some conventions and practices of academia and research. Learning about such systems will help you prepare for a career not only in academia, but across diverse career paths. A 2021 paper titled “Gender bias in academia: A lifetime problem that needs solutions” identified evidence for gender-based bias across many components of academia, including journal article citations, publication rates, evaluation of conference abstracts, hiring, grant applications, speaking invitations, and tenure decisions. In one example, a 2016 Gender Inequality Task Force Report from the National Institute of Health reported vast gender disparities in tenured faculty at American universities, with women making up only 23% of tenured faculty nationwide. Cases of bias towards students and academics of other underrepresented and marginalized identities and groups are also well documented.
Bias is also prevalent in research and the production of academic knowledge. All graduate students, regardless of discipline, should learn about bias in quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. Take some time to research bias in your own field of research. For example, if your work uses computational tools, it is important to learn about the prevalence of bias in algorithms and computer code, which you can learn about in this report created by the Civil Liberties Union for Europe. You can also learn about bias in medical research (see, for example, the article titled “Reducing Bias and Improving Transparency in Medical Research” or about researcher bias in qualitative research methods (see, for example, the article titled “Interviewing the Investigator.”) For more on avoiding bias in research, see the Research & Data Analysis page of this Guide.
Because of our individual backgrounds and contexts, each of us has social identities and biases that impact how we see the world and others. Oftentimes, these identities are complex and intersectional. The concept of intersectionality acknowledges that different aspects of a person’s identity combine to create varied conditions of disadvantage, discrimination, and privilege. This means that one individual may experience multiple, interrelated forms of oppression, a combination of privileges and oppressive forces, or multiple forms of privilege. To understand how biases operate, it’s important to reflect on our own varied experiences of advantage and disadvantage. Consider using a self-assessment tool for this reflection, such as this Addressing Identities worksheet from McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.
Understanding our own biases also requires that we assess how we develop our opinions about others. Most everyone has implicit biases, which the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (OSU) defines as “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” To learn more about implicit bias and its impacts on equity and inclusion, consider taking the University of California Managing Implicit Bias Series or the Kirwan Institute’s Implicit Bias Module Series. To assess and address your own unconscious biases, you may also want to take one or more of the Implicit Association Tests offered by Project Implicit.
It’s also important to learn about other forms of oppression and disadvantage that occur in interpersonal interaction in both academic and professional environments. For example, microaggressions are “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” (From UCLA, Diversity in the Classroom Booklet). To learn how to recognize microaggressions, consider reading through this tool adapted from the book Microaggressions in Everyday Life (2010).
Some more resources on understanding social identities, experiences, and bias:
After learning and understanding more about equity, inclusion, and your positionality, the next step is to learn how to address your own biases and intervene when you encounter biased or exclusionary behaviors. These are valuable skills to protect yourself and others, which will prepare you to live and work in diverse communities during and after your degree. These skills are also valuable for building inclusive communities and environments where everyone feels that they belong, which is an essential skill regardless of your career path.
Although biases are common, it is important to take steps to understand and address your own biases. A key practice for addressing our own biases is being mindful of our initial thoughts and reactions to people. Since many of our biases are unconscious, they are most easily identified in these split-second reactions. Review the additional steps laid out in the American Bar Association’s article “Everyone is a Little Bit Biased” in the section “Is it impossible to overcome our implicit biases?” Consider reading the book How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, which is easily accessible as an ebook through the UC Berkeley Library.
When you witness acts of bias, microaggressions, or violence against others, your silence can communicate tacit approval of this behavior. You can help others feel safe and included when you respond to these behaviors effectively. To learn how to best respond to microaggressions, consider reading this Inside Higher Ed piece, titled “Allies and Microaggressions.” UC Berkeley offers training through Bears That Care to help you become an active bystander and effectively and safely intervene when you witness potentially harmful or violent situations. Report hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents using the UC systemwide intolerance report form. Become familiar with the services and resources on conflict resolution and response to harm offered by the Restorative Justice Center of UC Berkeley. To learn more about the barriers to and opportunities for building inclusive communities, you can read articles featuring cutting-edge research and articles from the Othering & Belonging Institute.
For students who are faced with inequalities and oppression, the emotional toll of daily existence and traumas can be significant. If you are a student of color, or from another marginalized identity or group, it can be particularly important to set healthy boundaries and tend to your own self-care. For example, the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s “Core Skills” series includes webinars on The Art of Saying No and How to Manage Stress, Rejection, and the Haters in Your Midst. You can find resources tailored specifically to your identity or identities in the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) list of Community-Specific Information and Services and identity-specific community groups through the Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement.
Some resources specifically for students of color include A Multi-Week Course to Facilitate Healing from Racial Trauma from the National Center for Faculty Diversity, and the Night Out/Night Off for Graduate Students of Color. Night Out/Night Off is a biannual event where grad students of color can come together, find joy and community, and enjoy art created “by people who look like us, with people that look like us.” Black students can find additional resources on the University Health Services (UHS)’ Black Lives Matter resource page.
There are also many academic communities, conferences, and resources outside of Berkeley that might provide you with specialized support or community as you navigate academia and your future career. For example, Indigenous students in STEM may benefit from joining the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Latinx students may want to access the resources and guidance offered in the book A Latinx Guide to Graduate School by Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, which is available as an ebook through the University Library. Many students, and particularly those from underrepresented and marginalized groups and identities, can benefit from the guidance offered in the book A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum by Jessica McCrory Calarco. This book aims to make explicit the hidden norms and knowledge essential to navigating graduate school, and can also be accessed as an ebook through the Library.
The huge landscape of UC Berkeley includes many institutes, offices, departments, programs, and student groups whose work addresses issues of equity and inclusion. Utilizing and referring your peers to these relevant resources can be a key step in intervening in situations of bias, exclusion, and disadvantage. As a first step, consider subscribing to the Office for Graduate Diversity Newsletter, which provides updates on events and opportunities as they happen, including workshops, talks, and social events. Next, consider getting familiar with the many campus resources available to students. A nonexhaustive list of campus resources not discussed above includes:
As a graduate student, you have responsibilities and opportunities to counter inequity and foster inclusion within the campus community. This includes your work as an instructor, researcher, collaborator, mentor, and scholar. Learning to create environments that are inclusive and equitable are skills that are also vital in a variety of careers within and beyond academia. Taking initiative to develop these skills as a student is a great way to demonstrate your leadership skills and your commitment to equity and inclusivity.
As a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Instructor of Record, or mentor to other students, it is important to create an environment where diverse students and mentees feel that their perspectives and contributions are equally valued. One way to establish this environment from the beginning of a course is to create time for students to collaboratively create community agreements at the start of each semester. For more guidance on how to create community agreements, review this guide offered by the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center.
Also be sure to complete relevant trainings and workshops offered on campus. You can start by taking the required GSI Professional Standards and Ethics Online Course, which amongst other policy matters and standards, introduces GSIs to the importance of inclusive classrooms for diverse students. The GSI Teaching & Resource Center also offers workshops such as “Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Microaggressions and the Learning Environment” and “Universal Design for Learning.” Other relevant workshops and presentations can often be found on the Office for Graduate Diversity calendar of events and the Academic Innovation Studio upcoming events page.
Ensure that your materials and classroom methods are inclusive of students with disabilities; you can see the GradNews article “More than a Remote Possibility” for suggestions on this topic. Also consider watching the webinar Creating an Inclusive Classroom: Students with Disabilities (National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, 2020). To access the webinar, sign into the NCFDD website with your Berkeley email address.
The skills developed as a GSI and mentor are widely applicable to diverse career paths. Experience in this area will help demonstrate to prospective employers that you can provide constructive feedback, assess the work of colleagues, and mentor junior colleagues of diverse backgrounds and skill sets.
For more on inclusive teaching practices, see the Teaching & Mentoring page of this Guide.
For many scholars today, it is important to go beyond inclusion and embrace actively combatting racism in your students’ learning environment. Re-evaluate course materials and amplify the voices of BIPOC individuals by including their works and perspectives in your curriculum. Consider reading the comprehensive resource guide “Advancing Inclusion and Anti-Racism in the College Classroom”, which was recently developed by a team of UC Berkeley faculty and graduate students. Check the Office for Graduate Diversity calendar of events for offerings like the presentation Decolonizing the Syllabus, which was held in 2020.
See also these resources:
As a researcher, it is important to respond to issues of bias, exclusion, and oppression in your own research and in your discipline more broadly. Many annual conferences for academic associations will include equity and inclusion focused panels and workshops where you can stay up-to-date on your responsibilities as a researcher. Also consider getting involved with other equity and inclusion activities and initiatives offered by your academic and professional associations.
Join a committee in your department or professional disciplinary body committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you can’t find one, consider creating one. Propose workshops, reading groups, movie nights, and other discussions in your department for faculty and graduate students to foster engagement with the topics of equity and inclusion and how they relate to your discipline. Taking such steps can demonstrate to future employers not only your commitment to equity and inclusion, but also your ability to take initiative as a leader, manage projects, and design effective programs or interventions.
Search through Callink for existing student organizations to join. Graduate student government, the Graduate Assembly (GA), is a great place to make your voice heard, get involved with advocacy, and work to improve the lives of your fellow graduate students. You can join the GA as a Delegate for your department, an elected officer (such as Vice President of Equity & Inclusion), or through one of their staff positions for graduate students. Also consider joining a research group or lab focused on issues of equity and inclusion. For example, you can apply to join the Learning Community for Graduate Scholar-Activists, where you participate in a workshop and discussion series exploring the intersections of social justice efforts and your research and studies. Subscribe to newsletters from the Office for Graduate Diversity and GradPro in order to hear about other events and opportunities on campus.
Although all graduate students should take steps to build competency in equity and inclusion, some students may want to go further and develop greater expertise in these topics. You may want to develop expertise on general equity and inclusion topics, or on specific topics like pedagogy, anti-racism, ageism, and so-on. Developing this expertise can include doing in-depth reading, taking courses, engaging in workshops, engaging in hands-on learning, or even conducting research. Developing such expertise can be valuable in a variety of careers, as you will be well prepared to act as a leader and subject matter expert on such topics.
For further reading, consider looking through the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Reading List compiled by the University of Missouri. The reading list includes graphic novels and poetry, and covers a breadth of topics, such as ableism, nativism, and sectarianism. Just a few of the books commonly recommended across diversity, equity, and inclusion reading lists include The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo, and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, all of which are easily available online through the Library. If you prefer mixed-media learning, you can explore lists of documentaries and podcasts developed by Brandeis University and UC Berkeley. If your focus is on building expertise in anti-racism, check out the Division of Equity and Inclusion’s Anti-Racism Resources.
Coursework and connecting with faculty can also be a valuable avenue for developing expertise. Explore what equity and inclusion related courses your department and other adjacent departments offer. For example, consider reviewing the graduate student course list offered by the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership at the Haas School of Business (some Haas courses may require special permission to take as a non-Haas student).
* Some skills serve in the development of more than one competency. Some skills may apply more to one discipline than to another. Keep in mind that the list of skills and steps you can take to develop these competencies is not exhaustive.
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