Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Graduate Equity Initiative Announcement

Dear Arts and Sciences Colleagues,

A year ago, as part of Columbia’s effort to reckon with the impacts of systemic racism in the academy, GSAS and Arts & Sciences announced the Graduate Equity Initiative, a new, 5-year program of funding that seeks to create pathways of success to, through, and beyond graduate education for scholars from backgrounds underrepresented across the various fields in the Arts & Sciences.

After a year of hard work by a devoted committee of faculty, graduate students, and DEI staff from GSAS and A&S, we are pleased to announce the eight programs that have been chosen for initial funding. They represent a broad vision of diversity across the disciplines and at multiple levels of education and research training, ranging from the undergraduate pipeline in Biology to Ph.D. access in Classical Studies, to the cultivation of diverse talent in History Summer Institutes. The full list of supported projects can be found here and here and is appended below.

We want to acknowledge the extraordinary work of the faculty co-chairs of the Graduate Equity Initiative committee—Brent Hayes Edwards, Peng Family Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and Robert Y. Shapiro, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government. The committee of faculty, graduate students, and staff worked throughout the year to develop this new program under their leadership. The committee designed and implemented a thorough and welcoming process, assisted applicants in developing their proposals and set the principles and goals for the initiative’s first iteration. They navigated late-stage complexities and the challenge of choosing among multiple excellent proposals with grace and persistence. The membership of the committee is listed below; we are grateful to these colleagues for their time and leadership. 

All applicants to the program also deserve thanks: their more than 20 proposals embodied serious thinking about the obstacles to diversity in graduate education and evinced commitment to new practices of inclusion. While student support was a frequent focus, the proposals also committed faculty time, energy, and department resources to leverage the new funding and create a positive climate for all students. The thinking that went into these proposals will benefit programs even as we seek new sources of funding so that more of these ideas may be realized in the future. The work of inclusion is urgent, and constant; the progress that we make in the programs funded in this cycle will ultimately benefit all by testing and refining strategies for change and improvement. 

The awards for this year all represent multi-year commitments that allow programs to build cohorts and develop new inclusive practices over time. With the continuing leadership of Professors Edwards and Shapiro, the committee will take the coming year to fine-tune its processes and renew its membership in preparation for a second application cycle starting in the fall of 2022.

We begin this program with optimism, hope, and gratitude to many colleagues across Arts and Sciences. We look forward to learning from the programs that will launch their new initiatives in the coming year.


Carlos J. Alonso
Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor in the Humanities
Vice President for Graduate Education, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Amy E. Hungerford
Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences
Dean of the Faculty
Ruth Fulton Benedict Professor of English and Comparative Literature


Graduate Equity Initiative Committee

Brent Edwards, co-chair, Peng Family Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Robert Y. Shapiro, co-chair, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government and International and Public Affairs, Department of Political Science
Luis M. Campos, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Denise Cruz, Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Ellie M. Hisama, Professor Emerita of Music (now Dean of the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto)
Kellie E. Jones, Hans Hofmann Professor of Modern Art, Art History and Archaeology;  Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies; Chair, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies 
Rosalind C. Morris, Professor of Anthropology
Joshua Whitford, Associate Professor of Sociology
Tian Zheng, Professor of Statistics; Chair, Department of Statistics
Fredrick Harris, Professor of Political Science; Dean of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Sarah Cole, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Dean of Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Robert Mawhinney, Professor of Physics; Dean of Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Lisa de Sol, PhD candidate, English and Comparative Literature
Francisco Lara Garcia, PhD candidate, Sociology
Natalie Nevarez, Associate Director for Faculty Diversity and Development; Office of the Executive Vice President for the Arts and Sciences (now Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Celina Chatman Nelson, Associate Dean for Academic Diversity and Inclusion

1. Postbaccalaureate Classics and Classical Studies
Department of Classics

This program will create three fellowships each year for incoming postbac students, specifically in one of the departments that participate in Columbia’s interdepartmental Classical Studies Graduate Program, as well as in Medieval & Renaissance Studies, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

2. Black Undergraduate Mentoring Program
Department of Biological Sciences

The Black Undergraduate Mentoring Program will provide a cohort of undergraduates in the biological sciences with assistance in navigating careers in academic STEM research and medicine. Doctoral students participating will receive training and professional development in inclusive mentorship and cultural competency that will be of great value to them as they pursue their further careers.  The proposal provides two new types of mentorship to selected undergraduates: through an existing partnership with the Black Alumni Council of Columbia University (BAC) and with Trainee Research Mentors who will be recruited from A&S doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in coordination with the Department of Biological Sciences.

3.  History Summer Institute
Department of History

A History Summer Institute focused on undergraduate juniors and seniors to increase the diversity of applicants to graduate study. This proposal includes a three-pronged effort that builds on concrete steps already taken by the department that introduces a new and critically important pipeline dimension.

4.  Addressing the Inequities of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology

This proposal seeks to counter the perception that Anthropology dismisses studies of the US as less relevant to major debates in the field, by endowing students with the pedagogical and intellectual tools to redefine the discipline.  It will support a number of incoming PhD students and creates a three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship for recent doctoral graduates.  Mentorship will be provided through the departmental Boas Event Series, a Pedagogy Workshop, Professionalization Training, a Diversity Initiatives Fund to foster more student-led conversations and initiatives, and a discretionary fund to provide additional support for participants.

5.  Columbia University MA Access Program in Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Departments of English and Comparative Literature; French and Romance Philology; Germanic Languages; Latin American and Iberian Cultures; Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies; and Slavic Languages

The proposal creates a distinct MA Access Program in Columbia’s departments of modern languages, literatures, and cultures. The program will combine four fully funded fellowships with distinct and reformed recruitment, admissions, and advising programs to create a sustainable pipeline of qualified MA students in the modern languages and literatures.  Its aim is to foster an overarching culture of inclusion among the MA programs in those related fields.

6.  Building Diversity Pipelines into Statistics and Data Science
Department of Statistics

The proposed program aims to increase diversity in the Statistics MA program and to establish a baseline for diversity pathways in statistics and data science.  The envisioned effort is manifold: to provide significant tuition relief for a number of MA students; summer engagement opportunities prior to applying to the Statistics MA program; an active mentoring program that connects successful alumni with admitted students; deepening existing relationships and developing new relationships with partner institutions.

7.  Graduate Seminar on Race, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice
Departments of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Anthropology, African American and African Diaspora Studies, History, and the Center for Science and Society

The goal of this proposal is to sustain and enhance a graduate seminar on “Race, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice” (EESC 9810) that was taught last year for the first time, and which addressed the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities.  Funding will ensure a sustainable and successful future for this course by allowing the hiring of a full-time joint-appointment postdoctoral scholar between DEES, a social science department, and the Center for Science and Society to teach future iterations of this course, as well as part-time adjunct practitioners to guide the hands-on component of the course.