UBC’s Department of Psychology Equity Committee was formed in 2017 and leads equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives in the department. The committee is composed of faculty members, graduate students, and staff. In 2021, the committee decided to focus on enhancing the diversity of the graduate student population.
EDI initiative implemented
The UBC Psychology Equity Committee organized a diversity mentorship program for prospective graduate students from underrepresented, under-resourced, and/or marginalized backgrounds. The program is open to individuals from all over the world as they prepare for applying to graduate school in Psychology. In its first year, the Diversity Mentorship Program was supported by the UBC Anti-Racism Initiatives Fund and the UBC Department of Psychology.
The program was inspired based on research that has found that a good mentor is one of the key predictors of success in the field of Psychology, both academically and professionally. Leadership chose this particular program to increase diversity within the field and to support students as they navigate the stressful and complicated process of applying to graduate school, while at the same time increasing the EDI knowledge and skills of the current members of the department who participated in the program as mentors.
Goals of the program:
● Advancing diversity in the academic/professional pipeline in Psychology;
● Providing support & enhancing inclusion for prospective graduate students from under-represented backgrounds;
● Training and professional development in EDI for current graduate students and postdocs.
The mentorship program spans about 9 months, from early summer to the winter/spring of the following year. Mentors and mentees meet at least three times during the period and are encouraged to participate in a Discord community. Mentees in the program are advanced undergraduates or recent Bachelor’s graduates (from within & outside UBC), and mentors are current UBC Psychology graduate students, postdocs, and lecturers.
In the Spring of 2021, 101 mentees were selected out of 200 applicants and paired with 34 mentors. The mentees attended virtual workshops, talks and meetings during the summer and applied for graduate school and fellowships in the fall (or alternatively, with guidance from their mentor, some decided to delay their applications to graduate programs or decided that they did not want to pursue research-oriented graduate training in Psychology). As part of the program, mentees have their application fees waived when applying to UBC Psychology for grad school. They also received support in preparing for admission interviews and in navigating academic and career decisions during the winter and spring.
The mentors were all UBC Psychology graduate students, postdocs, or lecturers; each mentor had 3 mentees. Mentors received various training and supports such as a Canvas mini-course on mentoring students from diverse backgrounds, synchronous training via Zoom, and a Discord community. The program also included guest lectures, workshops, panels, & small group meetings.
Tracking progress and learning
The leadership built evaluation into their programming with a questionnaire after virtual events and talks, and they will survey mentees and mentors on their experience with the whole program after the program has concluded. So far, there has been very positive feedback about the program from both mentors and mentees. This program, along with other work done by the Department of Psychology, has encouraged conversations about EDI in classrooms, laboratories, and other settings.
This program also resulted in reflection about ways to incorporate training and discussions about EDI in the current graduate psychology program at UBC. This work is being done alongside other efforts to implement EDI training into the curriculum (e.g., monthly EDI workshop series, decolonizing curriculum, diversifying research), which will have an impact on the EDI skills and knowledge present in the field of Psychology more broadly. Information about the UBC Department of Psychology’s work to enhance inclusion is available at https://psych.ubc.ca/edi-recommendations/.
Dr. Nancy Sin, the Director of the Psychology Diversity Mentorship Program, believes the program’s core aspects—such as providing training around EDI in mentorship for graduate students is transferable—and could be adapted by other departments. She believes having a strong EDI committee and people who could dedicate specific time to advancing the program would be crucial to its success. Critical for moving this initiative forward, the program has secured funding for the upcoming year and will have support from a Work Learn student and Graduate Academic Assistants. Based on extensive survey feedback from program participants, the leaders will implement the following changes for the upcoming year:
- Professional development programming: Workshops will be held throughout the year instead of concentrating them on several days. The workshop content will be modified to be applicable for students at various points in their professional journeys, from students who are still exploring different academic and career options, to those who have a fairly clear sense of their intended path.
- Social connections and support: Mentees have expressed the desire for more opportunities to connect with fellow mentees. Thus, the program will be holding regular virtual group meetings throughout the year and will build their online community on Discord.
- Mentoring: Many undergraduates and recent graduates want the chance to learn from graduate students and postdocs, but they might not have well-defined mentoring needs yet or may want to “test the waters” before committing to a mentoring relationship. Thus, the program will hold mentoring sessions in small groups, where mentees can meet with different mentors each month to discuss a range of professional topics. At any point during the year, if a mentee wants additional one-on-one support, they can request which specific mentor(s) they’d like to be matched with. The leaders anticipate that this approach will enhance retention and will offer greater flexibility for the mentors and mentees.
Nancy Sin, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
YEAR OF IMPLEMENTATION