Academics

Diversity Committee

The Diversity Committee is a collaborative committee of self-selected students and faculty, working together to (a) create an inclusive environment within the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program in relation to multiple aspects of diversity, particularly those associated with social statuses reflecting systems of power and privilege and (b) contribute to the ability of members of our community to explore, understand, and enact understandings related to diversity and the promotion of social justice both within the UMass Boston Clinical Psychology Program and within our professional and personal communities. In the spirit of this mission we aim to:

  1. Provide a collaborative space to discuss/work through issues related to diversity.
  2. Empirically assess and address students' experiences related to issues of diversity within the program.
  3. Create initiatives to engage our broader community in achieving shared goals.
  4. Collaborate with the greater Clinical Psychology Program to enhance the institutional policies and procedures related to issues of diversity.

The DC meets approximately twice monthly during the academic year. Diversity Committee Co-Chairs include both faculty and students.

History

The Diversity Committee was initiated in 2002 by the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program faculty in response to feedback from White students and students of color. The initial charge of the DC was to create a survey to assess the climate of the program (classes, relationships between faculty and students, relationships among students, mentoring, etc.) related to diversity issues. The initial committee recognized that meeting this charge in a sensitive and inclusive manner required that the members of the committee share an understanding of the importance of diversity, the meaning of being a diversity-sensitive community, and the challenges to creating this community for all members. Thus, this early committee began the current approach of mixing both project initiative goals and process-oriented.

After the development of the Diversity Survey, the DC's charge expanded to its current mission in order to more fully actualize the spirit of the reason for its creation: to enhance our community members' engagement with issues of diversity. Over the years, the DC has developed several continuing initiatives, in response to student interests as well as in response to feedback from our Diversity Survey of the program climate. The particular projects that the DC prioritizes are most often proposed by students and discussed by the collaborative committee, which then decides whether or not to adopt the project as a DC initiative. If adopted, it is usually enacted by collaborative (student and faculty) sub-committees led by students. These initiatives (and associated subcommittees include):

Diversity Survey: The Diversity Survey was the charge of the initial creation of the Diversity Committee. This survey collects student feedback about how various issues of diversity are handled within the program, addressing classroom experiences, faculty-student relationships, peer relationships among students, staff-student relationships, and experiences in practica placements. The Survey explores student experiences in relation to race and ethnicity, as well as other aspects of diversity including sexual orientation, social class, religion, gender, and ability/disability. Results have generally indicated moderate to high satisfaction among students as a group with the program in general, and in each of the specific domains. Although survey results indicate general satisfaction, the DC particularly attends to feedback that suggests areas for improvement, as our mission is to excel in the area of diversity for all students. Results of the survey are analyzed by DC student members, presented to the committee and the community, and key recommendations are put forth to be addressed by students and faculty

Building Alliances Community Discussions: The Building Alliances Community Discussions were initiated by two students who, in their own interactions and experiences, had recognized the value of understanding intersections of oppression and privilege and the importance of examining this intersection in developing as allies (individuals who contribute to resisting systemic oppression in areas in which they are privileged). This initiative organizes community discussions (in various formats) for the entire clinical psychology program related to issues of diversity. The goals of these discussions are to explore our own experiences related to different statuses and to increase sensitivity, knowledge, and empathy for others—particularly across privilege statuses. The DC and the Building Alliances Discussions sub-committee organize one or two Community Discussions each year. Topics have included sexual orientation, social class, gender, religion, and familial mental health.

Bridging Perspectives: This initiative developed structure for addressing challenging interactions between and among faculty and students related to diversity issues and privilege differences. This initiative emerged from discussion of the results of the Diversity Survey, which indicated that, although very rare, at least one student had had experiences of difficult or uncomfortable interactions with faculty or with other students and felt that he or she could not directly address this. While occasional experiences such as these are inevitable in environments in which community members frequently engage in challenging diversity-related discussions, feedback on the surveys indicated that there were times when these discussions did not progress and student felt isolated and marginalized. Bridging Perspectives is an initiative where identified student and faculty members of the community are available to facilitate this communication by acting as consultants for individuals who bring a specific concern. The aim of Bridging Perspectives is to foster dialogue between students, between faculty, and between students and faculty in order to grow as a community, build cross-statusalliances, increase awareness of individual power and privilege, encourage voice from oppressed spaces, and actively break down systemic “isms” that arise within our community. Bridging Perspectives provides a safe venue for individuals to better understand a distressing or confusing situation related to issues of diversity and to assist the individual in identifying next steps.

Addressing Diversity during Admissions: This subcommittee works on ways to reach out to prospective students and raise awareness about the ways in which the UMass Boston program focuses on issues of diversity. The subcommittee and the DC also provide support and collaboration in planning as desired for the Diversity Panel and Students of Color Meeting (see Admissions and Diversity) which occur during interview day. In 2008, the DC was awarded a grant from the APA Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention, and Training (CEMRRAT) in Psychology to fund our efforts to pilot new procedures to enhance our recruitment of students from diverse backgrounds. The major focus of the grant is the revision of the program webpage to better reflect our mission and include a Diversity Committee webpage. The website revisions attempt to more fully represent the diversity focus of our program. This task has been taken on by this subcommittee, in consultation with the full DC.

Other Initiatives and Discussions: Various other initiatives, events, or discussions have been a part of the DC experience in different years. At times, the DC is a place for members to process issues that may be arising within the community or the larger society, to act as a support for DC members and a model for difficult dialogues, so that DC members can be leaders related to issues of diversity in the Clinical Program community, as well as in practicum sites and other spaces of their professional and personal lives. Some years, DC has planned more social events to facilitate community building related to sharing our experiences with diversity. DC has also been a place to initially discuss projects or initiatives related to diversity that are ultimately decided to be initiatives not in the compass of our mission and structure.