The Graduate Recruitment Initiative Team (GRIT) began as a grassroots student organization and has grown to encompass 18 graduate programs in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) and Physical Sciences Division (PSD) at the University of Chicago with over 50 members. GRIT is committed to enhancing diversity, inclusion, and equity across the BSD and PSD graduate programs. GRIT focuses on three central components: recruitment, retention, and sustainability in order to increase the recruitment and retention of students from marginalized backgrounds.
GRIT’s involvement with graduate student recruitment spans all parts of the admissions proceedings: pre-admissions, invitation decisions, interview weekend, and subsequent follow up. During the pre-admissions stage, GRIT members travel to diversity-focused conferences to recruit prospective students to the University of Chicago. GRIT travelers build relationships with potential recruits and connect them with faculty members from programs of interest. At UChicago, GRIT partners with faculty to correct implicit bias and hosts pre-interview video conferences with prospective minority recruits. During the invitation decision stage, GRIT plays an advisory role in selecting candidates for interviews. Over the interview weekend, GRIT hosts diversity panels which discuss university climate, culture, and allows recruits to discuss what UChicago graduate school is really like in an unfiltered setting (no faculty!). Recently, GRIT has encouraged admissions committees to drop the GRE requirement, resulting in the momentous decision to make the GRE optional for BSD graduate student applications.
Retention focuses on community building and maximizing each minority graduate student’s potential through shared resources and community bonding. To support graduate students from marginalized backgrounds at UChicago, GRIT aims to provide programming centered around bridging key gaps in the STEM pipeline for students from marginalized backgrounds, including: lack of visible role models, lack of community, and lack of mentorship. Examples of GRIT events include: monthly mental health and wellness check in’s (Wolf’s Den), seminar series featuring prominent minority scientists, and networking events with UChicago faculty.
Sustainability focuses on maintaining the viability of this community-driven system of recruitment/retention as GRIT student leaders move into the later years of their PhD thesis work. GRIT achieves sustainability by training incoming minority graduate students essential leadership skills and providing resources that will promote the advancement of their careers. The term limit for student leaders is one year. Term limits serve to promote healthy turnover of team leadership, maximize the training of other GRIT members, and ensure the views of incoming minority graduate students are represented.
The women’s team seeks to foster a community of women scientists at the university wherein women gather to address gender issues in STEM and share experiences in both encountering and overcoming obstacles. The goals of the 2018-2019 women’s team are to hold monthly book clubs focused on discussing scholarly, personal and professional accounts of challenges women encounter while pursuing higher education and a career in STEM. We plan to hold a Women’s Summit in Spring 2019 with participation of graduate students, post-docs and faculty members from the university in addition to professionals from the broader Chicagoland community.
Underrepresented Minorities (URM) Team
The underrepresented minority team is dedicated to multiple facets within a URM student’s graduate career. We plan on increasing representation within UChicago’s recruitment by analyzing each step of the admissions process and recognizing factors that could lead to bias and then brainstorming ideas on how to address these issues. We also plan on holding events that will not only foster discussion of the obstacles that URMs face but, also provide a comfortable environment for people to connect and express their thoughts and emotions. Finally, programming and opportunities that revolve around professional development, mentorship, and the trajectories a student’s career can take after graduate school will be a major focus for the URM group. We look forward to this upcoming year and working with the other dedicated teams within GRIT!
The goal of GRIT’s LGBTQ+ Team is to create an open community and provide support and resources for people who identify as LGBTQ+ and their allies. Through fostering community and building a support network, we hope to combat some of the issues that LGBTQ+ students face in STEM graduate careers including higher rates of mental health issues, higher attrition rates, and a lack of out LGBTQ+-identifying role models in their field. The latter issue is further exacerbated by the lower than average rates of coming out in a professional setting in STEM fields. We hope to combat this issue by creating an accepting and welcoming environment in which no one feels the need to hide themselves. We will accomplish this by travelling to conferences and recruiting talented LGTBQ+ individuals who will add to our community. Locally we will foster a strong sense of community through events such as socials, BBQs, and seminars. Beyond this, we seek to make sure that the resources available to those who struggle with the complex issues facing the LGBTQ+ graduate community are available and known to any who need them.
Disability Advocacy Team
Even though 1 in 5 Americans suffers from some form of a disability, they make up only about 1% of a graduating PhD class. In addition, while about 20% of disabled undergraduates get a degree in the sciences, only 6.8% continue to get a PhD. Seemingly insignificant things limit students from pursuing higher education: they are sidelined in undergraduate labs, discriminated against in job opportunities, and discouraged from attempting easily accommodated tasks.
Therefore, GRIT has started three initiatives to counteract the general mindset people have about the disabled community. We provide training and open discussion opportunities to challenge the way people think about the disabled community. Additionally, we are establishing a mentoring network for undergraduates with disabilities. Here, students are paired individually with current graduate students, providing the support and encouragement lacking for many undergraduates with disabilities. This allows us to better learn about and accommodate the societal obstacles these students face in STEM. This information is being incorporated into a formalized handbook for professors, detailing out the accommodations necessary and polite to provide for a variety of common disabilities. The handbook allows for an easy resource guide for educators to understand how they can reach their entire student population.
Disability relates to blindness, deafness, severe vision or hearing impairment, substantial limitation of mobility, or any other physical, mental, or emotional condition that lasts 6 months or more.
Contact the team at UCGRIT@gmail.com.