The Department of Psychology at East Tennessee State University has established programs of training designed to equip students with tools to leverage the science and profession of psychology in the service of promoting and affirming inclusion, equity, and diversity. We consider diversity as including (but not limited to) race, ethnicity, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious orientation, religion, disability status, socioeconomic status, national origin, and the intersection of these multiple identities. In support of our systematic and multiple year diversity plan the department has established The Committee on Inclusion and Equity in Psychology which has guided the development of this document. Below we describe the department's efforts to infuse attention and sensitivity to diversity through 1) a long-term, systematic plan for the recruitment and retention of diverse staff and students; (2) education of students; and (3) establishment of a climate of respect.
Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Faculty and Students
In this first area our plans include a breadth of strategies for both recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and students. Open faculty positions are advertised in a general audience publication (i.e., the APA Monitor), an African-American targeted publication (Psych Discourse), and an Hispanic targeted publication (Journal of Latinx Psychology). Every department advertisement is subjected to Affirmative Action review and revision by ETSU's Human Resources Office. All ads for tenure track faculty include a statement encouraging minorities and underrepresented groups to apply. In addition, departmental faculty distribute advertisements to colleagues in other psychology graduate departments and to various society listservs including the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP), the Council of University Directors of Clinical Psychology (CUDCP), the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (APA Division 8), the Cognitive Development Society, and Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (APA Division 44).
We continually strive to recruit diverse graduate students. The program utilizes a recruiter funded by the School of Graduate Studies who attends graduate school and career fairs at institutions that identify as serving historically underserved groups. The program individually corresponds with all contacts identified through this institutional recruitment. The Directors of Graduate Training additionally meet with McNair cohorts touring ETSU. We have actively changed our admissions process for our graduate program to reduce known barriers for diverse applicants (e.g., reduced application fees and removal of GRE requirement). We have adopted Psychology Central Application System (PSYCAS), which has been shown to promote applications from diverse candidates. When we make offers of admission, our admission letter includes a statement affirming the program’s commitment to training students to work with others who exhibit many facets of diversity and individual differences.
Among our efforts to retain diverse faculty, which also serve as additional recruitment strategies, has been our restructuring of the departmental website to highlight department-wide diversity efforts. According to research published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education (Wilson & Meyer, 2009), program websites have been referred to as their virtual face, and may be critical in establishing a departmental identity especially useful for diverse and underrepresented faculty and students who are considering their level of belongingness in particular programs. Via the website, individuals can evaluate whether the program prioritizes diverse needs and interests. Our website includes this document; the vision, mission, and goals of the department’s committee on inclusion and equity; and the department’s endorsement of the APA ethical principles related to justice and respect for people’s rights and dignity. In addition, the website highlights departmentally-sponsored activities that relate to diversity, including open positions, speakers, and faculty and student professional activities (presentations, publications).
We also employ specific strategies to retain diverse students. In addition to several undergraduate and graduate awards that recognize academic achievement, we infuse diversity into our speaker series as well as courses within our department. Many of our speakers address individual and cultural diversity issues, while all of them represent diverse topics within psychology. As described in more detail below, faculty routinely infuse diversity-related content into their undergraduate and graduate level courses.
Other efforts to enhance both recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and students include provision of additional diversity-specific training or activities that 1) respond to the direct requests of students, and 2) enrich their experience. As well, students and faculty in the department have collaborated to start two organizations to promote equity and inclusion (described below). Graduate students also participate in faculty meetings to ensure they have a voice within the department and simultaneously provide them with service opportunity.
Finally, our efforts to promote diversity in our didactic and experiential curriculum and training environments, as well as the climate of acceptance we establish, also promote retention of diverse faculty and students.
Education of Students
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is reflected across undergraduate and graduate education programs in the Department of Psychology. Our faculty members and students engage in research endeavors across a wide range of topic areas and populations. We seek to leverage the science and profession of psychology in service of promoting and affirming inclusion, equity, and diversity.
Within the Clinical Psychology concentration of the PhD program, a number of coordinated efforts demonstrate our attention to prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion across the educational curriculum. This includes infusion of diversity-related concerns across our core courses, as well as required completion of specific courses aimed to improve cultural competence. These didactic experiences emphasize individual diversity and intersectionality, as well as critical social justice issues that reflect psychology’s unique position to effect human growth and change. Our clinical students additionally cross-train with students from other healthcare disciplines (e.g., medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work), learning not only varying roles within interprofessional work environments but also differences in training models, philosophies, and service delivery across professions. Within the experiential components of their training, Clinical Psychology PhD students work with diverse clients, clinical supervisors, and agencies. These opportunities provide students with exposure to a broad array of demographic characteristics, clinical needs, and organizational and community cultures. Often these training experiences occur in contexts of economic disadvantage, rural geographic locations, and healthcare provider shortages with people who are vulnerable due to limited resources. Students additionally participate in clinical training seminars specific to diversity, equity, and cultural competence associated with their practice in the department’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic (BHWC) and other regional clinical training agencies. The purpose of these training experiences is to promote effective and evidence-based clinical practice that honors individual differences, intersectional identities, and the struggles unique to each person with whom they work.
Within the Experimental Psychology concentration of the PhD program, a number of efforts demonstrate attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes specific diversity-related courses in the doctoral curriculum, courses that require cross-training with clinical psychology students, and discussion of the impact of diversity in teaching (in both the teaching practicum and the diversity seminar). Moreover, the experimental concentration emphasizes translational psychological science in an effort to make science applicable to diverse populations.
Within the undergraduate program and general department, several additional efforts demonstrate attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We offer specific courses focused on diverse populations and experiences, as well as infuse diversity-related content across a variety of courses. We offer a diverse range of Speaker Series opportunities for undergraduates that reflect diversity of thought, populations, and careers in psychology. Many students get first-hand experience in professional and research ethics through participation in faculty research labs. And, students may choose to join PEACE (described below) to further their education and participation in inclusion-related activities and service.
Finally the department continually offers educational opportunities for its faculty, staff, and students on topics of equity and inclusion, particularly as they relate to the classroom in order to provide the best educational experiences possible for students.
Climate of Respect
Our collective efforts to promote diversity contribute to a thriving climate in which diversity is celebrated. To further promote a climate of respect, we provide activities in the department and support activities in the larger university and community related to diversity. One effort in this regard is the infusion of diversity into our speaker series. We select speakers both to address individual and cultural diversity issues and to represent diverse topics within psychology. Our faculty and students' connectedness across campus also results in sponsorship and co-sponsorship of larger scale diversity relevant events. All faculty members complete Title IX (preventing and addressing discrimination based on sex or gender) and Title VI (preventing and addressing discrimination based on race, color, or national origin) trainings, and many faculty members complete additional available trainings (e.g., Safe Zone). Additionally, our faculty members engage in research on diverse topics as well as research on diversity and inclusion, and are active in service on campus and within the profession that supports diverse groups.
Two organizations within the department are dedicated to promoting a climate of respect through equity and inclusion efforts. First, a Committee on Inclusion and Equity in Psychology, comprised of faculty and graduate students, leverages the science and profession of psychology in the service of promoting and affirming inclusion, equity, and diversity within the Department of Psychology and in the ETSU community. Second, a student organization, Psychology for Equity, Awareness, and Community Enhancement (PEACE), brings together faculty and students in psychology at ETSU to move forward the department’s diversity agenda, support diverse students, and participate in community social justice projects.
Finally, diversity-related data (including but not limited to individual characteristics, perceived departmental climate, and individual research, teaching, and service activities) are systematically and continuously collected for public dissemination on our department website and to inform program improvements. As noted above, gathering and disseminating such information contributes to the recruitment and retention of diverse staff and students, and to a climate of respect.
Implementation of this multiple year systematic plan improves recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and students, infuses diversity into education and training, and promotes a climate of respect.