Originally founded in 1861 to provide women an education equal to that once available only to men, Vassar College has a long history of seeking to make accessible “the means of a thorough, well-proportioned and liberal education.” [from the College’s First Annual Catalogue] As articulated in its mission statement, Vassar “strives to pursue diversity, inclusion, and equity as essential components of a rich intellectual and cultural environment in which all members, including those from underrepresented and marginalized groups, are valued and empowered to thrive.”
Diversity in a group of people refers to differences in their demographic characteristics and cultural identities. Inclusion refers to the creation of an environment that fosters acceptance and involvement of multiple perspectives, experiences, and values. It is not enough to simply have demographic diversity; all members must also feel included to reap the benefits of diversity for the institution. To achieve this diversity, Vassar must identify, cultivate, and promote the most brilliant minds from every corner of the country and the world.
As a result of Vassar’s commitment to pursuing diversity and inclusion, the student body of the College has grown increasingly diverse as measured by many widely used metrics, including race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, national origin, religious belief, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, and learning differences. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that diversity of background, culture, and thought fosters innovative ideas and creative accomplishments, and students educated in diverse environments have been found to learn better, to deal with complexity more readily, and to emerge with a greater understanding of how to participate productively in a pluralistic society. Diversity is not an end in and of itself; it is an essential means of achieving the College’s educational and institutional goals.
Vassar has sought to support its increasingly diverse student body in a number of ways. For instance, in 2010, the College established the Transitions program for first-generation, low-income, and undocumented students. Meanwhile, for over 30 years, the College has collaborated with Laguardia Community College on Exploring Transfer, a summer program to help community college students make the transition to a four-year institution. More recently, the College has launched a $1.6 million initiative on “Engaged Pluralism: Belonging and Thriving at Vassar College,” sponsored in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Students also have created their own organizations, many of which are devoted to inclusion and social justice.
Faculty members and staff play a critical and long-term role in helping to realize Vassar’s mission. To that end, all department and program hiring for tenure-track and multi-year faculty positions are requesting all candidates to submit a diversity statement. This statement should provide the candidate’s unique perspective on their past and present contributions to and future aspirations for promoting diversity, inclusion, and social justice in their professional career. The purpose of the diversity statement is to help departments and programs identify candidates who have professional experience, intellectual commitments, and/or willingness to engage in activities that could help the College contribute to its mission in these areas.
In line with the College’s Affirmative Action Policy, there is no requirement or expectation that a candidate disclose their identity or membership in any protected class or group, either in the diversity statement or in other application documents submitted to the search committee. Demographic information is solicited through the application process; however, those data are confidential and are not provided to members of the search committee.
A diversity statement can take a variety of forms. For example, it can address how the candidate engages with a diverse range of students in the classroom. It can address how the candidate incorporates diversity into their teaching materials and methods. It can discuss how a candidate can administratively support diversity among students, staff, and faculty. It can consider how a candidate addresses diversity in their research or artistic activity. It can describe past experience working with members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented or marginalized. It can discuss past diversity-related activities in teaching, research, mentoring, committee service, and community service. Some faculty candidates may not have substantial past activities in these areas, so they may instead focus on future plans in their statement.
Additional information on candidate diversity statements can be found through the links below:
- Golash-Boza, Tanya “The Effective Diversity Statement.” Inside Higher Ed. June 10, 2016.
- Martin, Suzanne “Diversity Statement Workshop.” Graduate Student Commons, University of California-Santa Cruz.
- University of California-Irvine, Advance Program for Equity and Inclusion, “Applicant Diversity Statement in Faculty Search Process: Frequently Asked Questions”
- University of Notre Dame, Graduate Career Services. “Diversity Statements.”