You need a personal diversity statement

There may come a day when you will be asked for a personal statement on diversity. In fact, you may have been asked for one already. These statements are becoming a common part of the application process in employment, education and for many grants. During the Day of Collective Action, David Hawkins-Jacinto, Ph.D., from the Department of Writing and Rhetoric Studies looked at why these statements are so important and how exactly you write one.

Hawkins-Jacinto

Let’s start with the why. Many of us are already doing diversity work. As students, faculty and staff each day we make decisions that impact whether our work contributes to a more equitable campus community and society at large. Those actions need to be documented to help us mark our progress, and keep us moving forward, not just as a monolith, but as individuals.

A personal diversity statement helps you keep track of the work you have done, are doing, and plan to do in the future. So often this work is done “in the background.” It isn’t documented the way we do research, curriculum or work histories. Yet, it is just as important. Your personal statement gives your diversity work the prominence it deserves and communicates your commitment to continuing the work. “This makes the invisible work very apparent,” said Hawkins-Jacinto. “It brings greater clarity and transparency to how your thinking informs your practice.”

Your personal statement isn’t just about documenting the work though—it’s also about acknowledging that more needs to be done. Presenting a personal statement on diversity can open up dialogue among others and help those who need to develop greater competencies when it comes to diversity work. It also can serve as a reminder that diversity work cannot be an afterthought, but instead must be considered every day, with every action.

Hawkins-Jacinto and the Senate Advisory Committee (SAC-EDI) he represents encourage faculty to think of their diversity statements as a Diversity Action Plan and Practices (DAPP). Why? This moves diversity from the ideological into the active. It also gives the document more clarity of purpose and aligns with other common reporting instruments like research plans, syllabi and the curriculum vitae.

Hawkins-Jacinto said when creating your DAPP know that you’re not expected to perform all aspects of diversity work. This is a roughly 400-700-word statement. It is not a magnum opus. Instead, writers should focus on the aspects that are most important to them and the key work they have done. “There is no correct way to write a DAPP,” said Hawkins-Jacinto. “This is something everyone will do differently to show what they specifically are doing to advance equitable access.”

Some things you may want to include in your DAPP are any efforts you have made to advance the standing of marginalized groups, the outreach you have been involved in and other concrete accomplishments. Personal stories are great accompaniments, but not necessary. Above all else, make sure you are using an active voice and tone. “Diversity work is an active process,” said Hawkins-Jacinto. “We are talking about what we are doing as well as what we have done.”

There are many resources to help you create your DAPP, both on campus and elsewhere. The Office for Inclusive Excellence is a great place to start, as is the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. You can also check with your department or college for their own EDI resources. Wherever you start though, remember that you are moving the needle not just for yourself and in your career, but for those who are coming after you and need you to stand up for the importance of diversity work.