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Rackham Graduate School Offers New Certificate Program for Developing Student DEI Skills

dei certificate  program gathering

Students attend Rackham's first diversity-statement workshop in September.

As a central part of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategic Plan, the Rackham Graduate School now offers a graduate student DEI Professional Development Certificate that is designed to prepare students to work in a diverse environment while fostering a climate of inclusiveness. The program, which was designed in response to student feedback, recognizes a relatively new and rapidly growing movement among employers, both within and outside of the academy, to require job applicants to demonstrate a commitment to diversity.

“We are dedicated to providing a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for our students and preparing them to continue and advance these efforts in their prospective professional settings,” says Rackham Interim Dean Michael J. Solomon. "The goal is to establish a pipeline of excellence in DEI professional development for students as they become scholars, leaders, and change agents in the career of their choosing, whether it be in industry, government, the nonprofit sector, or higher education."

The goal is to establish a pipeline of excellence in DEI professional development for students as they become scholars, leaders, and change agents in the career of their choosing.Michael J. Solomon, Interim Dean

To earn the certificate, students must complete five of seven core DEI trainings offered regularly at Rackham, along with a minimum of five additional trainings in a skill track of their interest, such as teaching, research, leadership, or service and outreach. As part of their participation, students must also submit a reflection form within 72 hours of each training and draft a personal diversity statement at the end of the program. This focus on encouraging the development of professional competency in job-related skill tracks, post-workshop reflection, and requiring a diversity statement are what set Rackham’s program apart from any other currently offered to graduate students around the country.

U-M is also uniquely poised to offer this type of professional development due to the university having several units nationally known for their DEI initiatives: the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and the Program on Intergroup Relations.

“Rackham will leverage these existing university DEI resources while creating opportunities for collaboration and support,” says Deborah Willis, Rackham’s program manager for professional and academic development. “With this framework, Rackham will serve as a DEI nucleus, making DEI offerings easy to navigate for graduate students and providing the structure and framework for students to gain necessary skills.”

The school is also partnering with U-M’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The university’s Chief Diversity Officer, Rob Sellers, recognizes the program as an "incredible resource for students” and will participate in the celebratory conclusion ceremony. In addition, both he and the dean of Rackham Graduate School will sign the students' certificates of completion.

"We are excited to offer a program that will help graduate students deepen their skills to promote inclusive and equitable learning environments, reflect on the value of DEI, and articulate their professional experiences related to these vital concepts,” says Laura Schram, Rackham’s director of professional and academic development.

Willis recently wrote a piece for Inside Higher Ed about the emphasis being placed on DEI in universities, corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations alike.

“These are encouraging trends to many who have felt that DEI work has historically been marginalized,” she wrote. “It’s inspiring to see the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of national conversations and policy, and to witness such skills being valued.”

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