Diversity, inclusion is important in graduate school programs

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Graduate programs are known to be the next step to enhancing your education which is why they should be focused on upholding the highest standards of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

A lot has changed over the past few years regarding admission numbers, especially the amount of students of color earning graduate degrees. 

In 1995, 75 percent of white students made up the population of graduate students in the U.S. while the rest were a mixed population of Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native American students. 

In 2015, data shifted to where only 56 percent of white students made up the population of graduate students while the rest were students of color and international students. Still, the shifts in the individual populations of people of color differ and have a long way to go.

For example, Black students increased from 6.9 percent to 13.5 percent, Asian students actually decreased from 7.3 percent to 6.3 percent, Hispanic students increased from 4.9 percent to 9.2 percent and Native American students decreased from 0.6 percent to 0.4 percent.

Of course, these numbers continue to change over time, decreasing and increasing as new students enroll each year. The common theme is how more students of color are applying and enrolling in higher education over the past 20 years. 

On the other hand, numbers can only say so much about graduate school and the experience students of color go through. Navigating through a white-dominated field of academics can open up a plethora of microaggressions, imposter syndrome, tokenization and marginalization. 

In general, graduate students are three times more likely to experience mental health issues than the average American. For students of color, this could be worsened through systematic and social barriers that isolate them from the graduate school experience. 

Historically, students of color, more specifically black students, were excluded from receiving the same education as their white counterparts. Even today, hate crimes continue to occur on college campuses that are racially motivated against people of color. 

Because of this, graduate schools should garner an inclusive environment with resources and funds dedicated to support students of color as they continue on with their education. 

Since students of color are less likely to take advantage of mental health resources on campus, universities should aim to close that gap by reaching out to students and ensuring that counselors represent the students they are trying to help. 

On the academic side, the implementation of graduate programs meant to highlight the contributions of people of color and marginalized communities are essential in becoming inclusive. 

UH has its own African American Studies graduate certificate as well as a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. Although these are just graduate certificates, they offer an advanced academic venture into the history of marginalized communities that can be pushed into full-fledged graduate programs if the University aims for it.  

Graduate programs are a space for students to grow and increase their scope of the world. It is only logical that those spaces include a diverse group of students and their pressing thoughts to create it. 

Cindy Rivas Alfaro is a journalism sophomore student who can be reached at [email protected]

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