Graduate Initiative for Diversity, Inclusion and Access (DIA)

A Message to the USC Community

From:         Elizabeth A. Graddy

Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs

Sally Pratt

Vice Provost for Graduate Studies

Date:          March 23, 2016

Subject:     Graduate Initiative for Diversity, Inclusion, and Access (DIA)

We are pleased to announce the Graduate Initiative for Diversity, Inclusion, and Access (DIA) to help our schools and programs increase diversity, create a more inclusive and supportive graduate culture, build new pathways to recruit highly qualified underrepresented students to USC, and support graduate students as they progress toward their professional goals.  To this end, the initiative will 1) provide funding jointly with schools to recruit strong and diverse PhD cohorts; 2) create a broader applicant pool for programs’ recruiting efforts; and 3) work with schools and campus organizations to enhance inclusion and academic professional development.

1) Joint Funding – DIA Top-Offs
Starting with the fall 2017 cohort, the Graduate School will provide DIA top-offs to establish a stipend of $32,000 for selected students who contribute to diversity in USC PhD programs.  The DIA top-offs will constitute the university’s highest award for incoming students along with the Provost’s Fellowship top-offs, which also include diversity as a possible qualification.  There will be two ways to take advantage of DIA top-offs: they may be added to an existing incoming fellowship slot administered by the Graduate School, or they may be added to a full fellowship provided from school or program-based funds.  The process for awarding DIA top-offs will be similar to the one already in use for Provost’s Fellowship top-offs.

2) Expanding the Pool – The DIA JumpStart Program
Our faculty, current students, and graduate alumni are our best recruiters for PhD students, and the Graduate School can help increase the pool of possible applicants.  The DIA JumpStart Program, which will be introduced on a small scale in summer 2016, will provide opportunities for students from three minority-serving institutions – California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; California State University, Los Angeles; and Loyola Marymount University – to preview the PhD experience through a research-intensive summer program at USC.  Participants will be matched with interested USC faculty mentors and act as summer research assistants.  This research experience will be supplemented by activities that address academic culture, including PhD admissions, research ethics, and skill development; and that counteract the frequently reported issue of “onlyness” – being the only underrepresented student in a particular setting.  Participants will receive a modest stipend.  Students who successfully complete the DIA JumpStart Programand apply to USC PhD programs will have their application fee waived.

3) Academic Support, Professional Development, and Inclusion
The DIA Boot Camp (summer 2016) will be a writing-intensive 10-day workshop for incoming and first-year PhD students applying for Ford Pre-Doctoral, GEM, Soros, NSF GRFP, and other major external fellowships.  Participants will receive stipends and supplemental research awards based on specific performance goals.

DIA Boot Camp Boosters (fall 2016) will be one-day skill-building workshops for alumni of the DIA Boot Camp.  The workshops will provide opportunities for students to continue to pursue external funding and develop additional professional and academic skills.  They also aim to build a strong sense of community among PhD students and to encourage mentoring among various cohorts.

Academic Professional Networking Events will be expanded in number and scope.  These activities will provide professional development and additional community building opportunities, including DIAthemed lunches with the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs, skill-development seminars, and other networking events.

We would like to thank members of the Graduate School Advisory Council and the Advisory Council Diversity Task Forces who have worked vigorously over the last two years, graduate students who participated in lively lunchtime discussions with the Vice Provost for Graduate Programs, members of the Graduate Student Government and Academic Senate, and the many staff, faculty, and students who provided thoughtful input and helped shape the DIA Initiative.  Discussions with all of these groups, along with the work of the Provost’s Diversity Task Force and diversity liaisons from the various schools, will continue to inform our efforts as we move forward.

We look forward to continuing our work with USC’s faculty, staff, and students as we launch the DIA Initiative and other school-based programs to ensure that diversity, inclusion, and access are part of the very fabric of our university.

We welcome your comments and further ideas at