How to Write a Diversity Statement
At the Morgridge College of Education, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice (DEIJ) underpins everything that we do and are. We are committed to improving the lives of marginalized people and advancing equity. These living values inform our curriculum, strengthen our community, and help to drive us towards holistic excellence.
As part of our admissions process, we ask students to write Diversity Statements (also called Statements of Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice). They help us to learn about each applicant’s experiences, values, and commitment to diversity. These insights can help admissions professionals and faculty members to better understand how an applicant may contribute to our thriving culture, classrooms, and more.
How we define and think about DEIJ is influenced by our individual identities and shaped by our experiences. Each person’s ideas and feelings are – and should be - unique. As you write your Diversity Statement, it is critical to remember that there is no single “right” answer.
Step 1: Keep the Basics in Mind
Be Reflective and Honest. By focusing on your firsthand experiences, understanding, and goals you will help us to understand you as an individual.
Be Specific. Each program poses unique questions to applicants. Whether you are asked to describe a specific social justice topic of interest, recount a lived experience, or describe a hypothetical situation, try to be precise. Vague statements do not help us to learn much about you.
Find Opportunities to Show Us More. Are you able to recognize opportunities? Are you good at finding solutions? Do you have a positive attitude? When describing your experiences, you can help us to understand a lot about who you are and how you react to situations.
Step 2: Understand the Question
The Diversity Statement question is: “How does equity, diversity, and social justice shape an issue in [your future program] that is of interest to you?” When answering this question, you should include:
Any concerns and opportunities for equity, diversity, and social justice within your issue of interest.
Any personal, academic, and/or professional experiences that have shaped your understanding and commitment to equity, diversity, and social justice in education.
Identifying Your Interests
What is of interest to you is truly personal. How and whether you think that issues of equity, diversity, and social justice shape it is something that only you can address. Keep the basics in mind: be reflective and honest, be specific, and find opportunities to show us more.
What is equity?
If you look equity up in the dictionary, you’ll find definitions such as: “justice according to natural law or right” and “freedom from bias or favoritism.” When most people think of equity, they think of equality. Equity and equality are related but are not the same. When thinking of equity in terms of equality, it is important to ask:
Equality of what? Having equal access to something is very different than having an equal outcome. Everyone’s experiences and capabilities are different. Equity is concerned with fairness and justice. Equity helps to ensure that each person has the potential to experience equality of outcome.
Equality for who? In our societies and institutions, systemic barriers have long prevented equality of both access and outcome for marginalized individuals. Many of these barriers have been built on racism and economic class. It is important to keep in mind that everyone – regardless of difference, disability, race, and so on – is affected by issues of equity.
Example: Equity versus Equality
Let us pretend that there are two incoming students to a graduate program. Student A comes from a wealthy family and has a trust that will pay for most of their educational experiences. Student B comes from a family that is not well off and works 2 jobs in order to afford both basic living expenses and tuition. The students have nearly identical GPAs and have similar career goals. If their school gave them each $1,000 towards tuition, this would be equal. If, however, they gave additional funding and need-based aid to Student B, this would be more equitable.
What is diversity?
Diversity is, at its most basic level, variety. When we talk about diversity in the context of society, we are talking about the totality of human variation. Diversity is not only differences in race, economic class, sexual orientation, ability, gender, age, health, and so on. Diversity exists in our lived experiences, aspirations, and characteristics that defy categorization.
What is social justice?
Very broadly, social justice is concerned with equality among people in society. This includes privileges (or rights) and opportunities. People often discuss social justice in terms of equality of access, but we would encourage you to think about social justice in the context of equity. Social justice topics are vast and include voting rights, criminal justice, immigration, and economic justice.
What to Include (And What You Shouldn’t)
Your Diversity Statement should be informed by your experiences and speak to your ideas and values.
Examples of your research that may be relevant.
Experiences that you’ve had as a mentor, volunteer, or teacher.
Illustrative examples of how you identify, think about, and address challenges.
Your perspectives and unique understandings.
Try Not to Include
Quotes from, or retellings of, other people’s experiences. We want to know about your DEIJ experiences. You’ll have the opportunity to highlight your research skills in other portions of your application.
What you think we “want to hear.” There is no “right” answer to the questions you’re answering – the best answer is your answer.