Skip to main content

Our Commitment to Diversity in Graduate Education

Dr. Milo L. Dodson
The Graduate College is excited to participate in a campus-wide celebration of diversity this week - Inclusive Illinois/iUnite Week. Events include an interfaith dinner, the iUnite film series, and keynote addresses from two speakers. Dr. Bernard LaFayette, a former Freedom Rider and founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a Nashville Lunch Counter Protester will speak twice on September 29. Dr. Milo L. Dodson , a graduate of the doctoral program in Counseling Psychology at the University of Illinois, will deliver his address on September 30. He currently serves as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the UC Irvine Counseling Center. 
The Graduate College Office of Educational Equity Programs invites the public to attend “Dialogues on Diversity,” an opportunity for current graduate students to informally present their research on diversity and inclusion for discussion. The event will be held on Monday, September 28 from 4 – 6 p.m. in Coble Hall, room 304 and will be a wonderful opportunity to engage in conversation with these emerging scholars.
Graduate Education at Illinois thrives because of the diverse community of graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff from many different backgrounds who call Illinois home. Our nearly 11,000 graduate students and 600 postdocs come from states all across the U.S. and its territories, and from more than 100 countries.
We firmly believe in the importance of diversity in our community and academic pursuits. Fostering diversity creates an intellectual appreciation for a wide variety of different perspectives and points of view, ensuring more voices in shaping knowledge and creative expression. 
Last week, we hosted our annual ASPIRE program – an early application and campus visit program designed to broaden participation by populations historically underrepresented in graduate programs at Illinois. 
And, earlier this fall, we welcomed our first cohort of Sloan and Illinois Sloan scholars to campus. The Sloan University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) at Illinois aims to broaden participation in advanced engineering, physical, and mathematical science careers, thereby strengthening the talent pool in these fields while increasing equitable opportunities in the U.S. 
Lauren Hagler, first year PhD candidate in Chemistry, is one such scholar. Lauren was able to come to campus this past summer before starting her coursework as part of the Graduate College Summer Pre-doctoral Institute (SPI).
“I think the best experience I’ve had at Illinois was SPI. I got a jumpstart on research and professional development. I also built a tight network of people. We have a cohort. We lived and worked together this summer and now we are continuing that relationship, so I got to start my degree as part of a community,” she said. “I had the opportunity to build a network outside of my department – now I have friends outside of chemistry!” 
Lauren hopes to use what she learned at Illinois to pay the experience forward. “My passion in life is to be the face for another young girl who is coming up who doesn’t think that chemistry or science is achievable, especially young black girls. There are a lot of programs geared toward black males and toward girls, I hope to one day create an outreach program and be a leader to help address the lack of minority women in STEM fields.”
Our 2015 Student Leadership Award winners demonstrate how actions can create an inclusive community. Samantha Knoll, PhD student in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, co-founded the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) on campus. Knoll’s leadership has helped develop a sustainable GradSWE organization, which currently has more than 250 members and continues to organize the annual weSTEM conference. 
Megan Paceley, who recently completed her doctorate in Social Work, co-founded The UP Center, a LGBT organization for Champaign County, in 2010. The UP Center organizes community events, partners with the campus LGBT Resource Center, and today serves over 3000 people annually. While a student, she served on the Chancellor’s Committee for LGBT Concerns and received a Graduate College Focal Point award that led to a year-long LGBT research seminar series and symposium. 
Several recent and current Focal Point projects bring together research teams of graduate students and faculty to contribute to campus, national, and international discussions on diversity. 
These are just a small representation of the many people on our campus who are committed to creating, building, and sustaining a welcoming and inclusive community. We encourage you to spend some time this week engaging with your peers and attending iUnite Week events to further the conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion on this campus.