Liberal Arts graduate students form diversity and inclusion alliance

Susan Burlingame
April 12, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State undergraduates interested in being part of an organization celebrating ethnicity or culture have dozens from which to choose. Graduate students, however, do not enjoy as much variety. Those who want to network with other graduate students can join the Graduate and Professional Student Association. Those looking for more affinity-focused involvement or support can join the Black Graduate Student Association or access campus resources such as the LGBTQA Resource Center and the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Development.

For Morgan Johnson, Sabrina Evans, Katye Griswold — all of whom are pursuing graduate degrees in the College of the Liberal Arts — there needed to be another option.

Enter the Graduate Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion (GADI) in the College of the Liberal Arts. A group of graduate students, including Johnson, Evans and Griswold, as well as several faculty members, began meeting in 2017. The group’s first public meeting followed in spring 2018, and in fall 2018, GADI was officially established. Scott Bennett, the college’s associate dean for graduate education, provided guidance to the group and became GADI’s unofficial adviser.

GADI is devoted to supporting graduate students who identify with or are allies to people from underrepresented communities. It brings students together from across the college’s departments to discuss issues of diversity, provide support to students and education for the community, and build community among graduate students from diverse backgrounds.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, April 18, in 102 Burrowes Building, GADI will hold its final meeting and open house, during which the group will celebrate accomplishments, make plans for the following year, and invite new members to join. Refreshments will be provided. All interested graduate students from the College of the Liberal Arts are welcome to attend.

“When I first came to Penn State from Indianapolis, I experienced a bit of culture shock,” said Johnson, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. Johnson went to her adviser to discuss ways to make students of color feel more welcome — which led to her involvement in GADI.

Griswold, who expects to complete her doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology in 2020, said she was lucky to be in a department big enough to have its own diversity group (BRIDGE), but she realized that not all departments could accommodate an organization of their own.

“I saw GADI as a great opportunity to build community that transcended one department. It's also a way to pool resources and make a greater impact at Penn State,” she said.

For her efforts in helping to establish GADI, Griswold received the Jackson Lethbridge Tolerance Award in March. The annual award honors a student who promotes respect for differences and diversity-friendly citizenship in the Penn State community and beyond.

Evans serves as chair of the GADI steering committee. She is graduating in May with a master’s degree in English and will continue at Penn State for her doctorate. She said GADI gives her the opportunity to interact with students in other departments and not only discuss issues and resources but also enjoy social activities.

“I feel like GADI gives me a voice,” she said.

“It’s been great to see the students design a program that helps our graduate students be successful,” concluded Bennett. “The group is truly dedicated to supporting and educating current and prospective graduate students and faculty and creating a welcoming community on campus.”

For more information on the Graduate Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of the Liberal Arts, visit their Facebook page of the same name.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 12, 2019