Committing to Inclusiveness Is Essential in Our Ever-Changing Environment

By David G. Payne

Graduate programs that build a truly inclusive culture make the greatest contributions to society, which needs diverse perspectives to tackle today’s issues. In our fast-changing environment, we’re facing challenges in demographics, skills and culture — not to mention the influence of emerging technologies, career specialties and even new vocabulary. Clearly, we need faculty and students with a diversity of talents, skills and backgrounds to help us make sense of the changes and their broader implications, and to address the new types of challenges we face that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago.

ETS is committed to helping programs create inclusive cultures. And as a nonprofit organization with 70 years of experience developing research-based solutions for the higher education community — and whose mission is to help advance quality and equity in education — we are in a position to help. We are doing so by convening thought leaders, curating and sharing examples from peer institutions, making resources available, and tapping into our collective research expertise and experiences. While ETS has long been involved in helping graduate and professional programs achieve their missions, changing times call for new ways of doing things. We’re embracing the call to broaden our role, and are doing so with support, suggestions and insights from deans, faculty and admissions professionals who may be reading this letter right now.

Did you know that 18 graduate school deans and leaders make up the GRE® Board, and that many more deans and faculty serve on the Board’s Technical Advisory, Research, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Services  committees? The GRE Board is independent from ETS but affiliated with the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Association of Graduate Schools (AGS), and perhaps it’s this separation in interests and cross-collaboration that allows for a free-flowing, honest dialogue at our Board meetings. In recent meetings, members have been especially active in helping us think through how we can better meet the needs of the higher education community, and in the development of resources and services that can support institutions and programs like theirs, as they strive to create diverse and inclusive communities. We understand that there is no one right way to do that, but through research-driven practices and an understanding of the important role that GRE scores serve as a measure of graduate-level readiness, we’ve developed a number of tools that serve different purposes and curated examples from programs that seem to be doing it well. These are all freely available to you at our newly expanded site, holisticadmissions.org.

Resources available on the site are informed not only by the opinions of GRE Board members and ETS researchers, but by an extensive literature review and findings from 71 in-depth interviews with faculty and staff who are involved in admissions at 58 graduate programs across a variety of disciplines. The interviews were part of an effort to learn more about admissions practices, how schools that are doing holistic admissions have evolved their processes, and the challenges they continue to face. During our in-person conversations, we heard that the questions we posed were causing our interviewees to consider their own process in ways they hadn’t before, and could be helpful to other programs looking to start their own conversations. This led us to formalize the discussion guide, which covers areas such as how to prepare effectively for the admissions process, key factors and their relative importance in making final selections, and evaluating the effectiveness of your process overall. While we all know that increasing student diversity requires an approach that is much broader than just what happens during the admissions process, we hope the guide helps as a conversation starter.

An ever-changing world in which diverse, talented graduates lend their innovative thoughts, expertise and enthusiasm to solving complex problems requires a diverse and inclusive graduate student and faculty ecosystem. ETS and the GRE Program look forward to continued collaboration with the graduate community to help you achieve your diversity and inclusion goals.

Please visit holisticadmissions.org for the discussion guide, promising practices and other resources.

Related

New Graduate Student Recruitment Solution from ETS and Liaison

October 2, 2018

A new tool will help admissions professionals at colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world to drive awareness of opportunities available to prospective graduate students.