Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
NGP Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
At the core of the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) is the belief that the scientific enterprise is inseparable from the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Our success is greatly attributed to the diversity of our students and faculty, who provide a wider scope of vision and depth of experience to our program. We commit to engender a diverse community that is accessible, safe, and inclusive. This includes, but is not limited to, providing opportunity and access for all across differences of race, age, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, national origin, migratory status, disability/abilities, political affiliation, veteran status and socioeconomic background. Bias in any form has no place in science or the Neuroscience Graduate Program. We pledge to equally support the success of all community members, and we commit to respond with humility and transparency to all inquiries. It is our fundamental belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion are an essential part of training on both the student and faculty level, and we strive to produce graduates that excel as both scientists and advocates.
- Carol Elias, NGP Director
- R. Keith Duncan, Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Rackham Faculty Ally
- Louis Dang, Faculty Repreentative
- Elise Savier, Faculty Representative
- Audrey Seasholtz, R25 Summer Programs
- Vinodh Balendran, Student Representative
- Chandni rana, Student Representative
- Valerie Smith, Staff Representative
Many of the DEI initiatives organized by the NGP DEI Committee have benefited from additional faculty and student leadership. NGP DEI Task Forces and Focus Groups have allowed us to expand our reach, include more voices, and accelerate new programming.
Recruitment and Admissions Task Force seeks to enhance representation of those historically underrepresented in our program and the scientific community. This group helped establish our holistic admissions application and interview process, extended the recruitment reach through virtual open houses, and refined our approach to demonstrate a commitment to DEI without tokenizing our current diverse faculty and student volunteers.
Climate and Retention Task Force seeks to anticipate the needs of students and maximize their success at every stage of their academic career. This group has facilitated the creation of student-organized Community Groups, the formation of confidential and anonymous ways to report concerns, and implemented a small group mentoring model to help first-year graduate students navigate their transition to graduate school.
Mentoring and Education Task Force seeks to support student mentoring and community education to create a more equitable and integrated workplace. Among many program initiatives, this task force helped establish new policy for primary mentor-mentee mentoring, created new paths for marginalized undergraduates to obtain research experiences in NGP laboratories, and sponsored book clubs and watch parties to expand cultural awareness.
Outreach and Activism Task Force seeks to provide opportunities for the NGP community to engage in social justice on campus and within our broader community. This task force has partnered with many area service organizations to help furnish an apartment for those transitioning from homelessness, lead clothing and food donation drives, clean area parks and waterways, and assist with voter registration and platform awareness.
Focus Groups are frequently formed to tackle specific program needs, often needs that span the purview of any one committee or task force. Recently, focus groups have produced our NGP Code of Conduct, created a new Individual Development Plan process for tracking graduate student goals and progress, re-invigorated peer-to-peer professional development workshops, and more.
Effective mentoring recognizes our tendency to mentor through our own personal lens, leading us to engage in other perspectives and grow in empathy for the diverse experiences of our mentees. The Mentoring Lenses series seeks to expand our perspectives, grow cultural awareness, and affirm the cultural wealth around us. This annual series brings inspirational speakers and workshop facilitators to help broaden our perspectives, each completing the title “Mentoring through the lens of…” Past speakers have focused on Mentoring through the Lens of Plants as Teachers, Mentoring through the Lens of Critical Race Theory, Mentoring through the Lens of Neurodivergence, and Mentoring through the Lens of Crucial Conversations. WIth each event, our goal is to (1) affirm mentee experience, (2) expand mentor cultural awareness, (3) balance theoretical frameworks with practical tips, and (4) provide opportunities to discuss these topics within our unique contexts.
The PiN seminar series brings established neuroscientists from diverse backgrounds to campus for a visit, during which speakers give a scientific seminar as well as an informal GUIS talk on the “unofficial story” of their career path. These are complemented by independent meetings with groups of NGP students. The series helps to personalize prominent scientists, allow for open discussion about career trajectories, and foster networking opportunities.
The goals of the GMFP are to (1) provide tools for graduate students as lab mentors to undergraduates, (2) prepare graduate students for future careers supervising trainees, (3) enhance our pipelines with partner institutions, (4) promote cultural awareness, and (5) help solidify what graduate students want from their own mentoring experiences. NGP graduate students are paired each Fall with undergraduates from pipeline programs. Pairs choose from a wide array of short reflections on a variety of topics to help guide their meetings, with the goal of meeting 8 times per academic year. Reflections include discussions on self-agency and self-efficacy, strengths inventories and career planning, goal setting and time management, critical thinking skills, attending conferences, and much more. A small stipend supplement is offered to graduate student mentors.
SPINES seeks to help first-year graduate students navigate the structure of academia and the transition from their undergraduate experience. Two first-year students are joined by senior graduate students/postdoctoral fellows and a NGP faculty member to create a small group pod, meeting throughout the year to create social support and field questions about academic life, wellness, choosing courses, handling prelims, and other aspects of the so-called “hidden curriculum”.
As part of a continual effort to make the NGP a more inclusive and accessible program, we are restarting and expanding upon programming on the hidden curriculum. Student only workshops, led by current students, for the coming year are as follows:
10/12/2023 Committee Meetings
11/16/2023 Mental Health & Wellness
2/22/2024 All Things $$$
3/14/2024 Choosing and Transitioning into a Lab
4/4/2024 Self Reflection, Evaluation, and Goal-Setting
NGP Community Groups are student-led social groups, created to enhance social support, increase well-being, and improve work-life integration. Applications are solicited from students several times per year, with requests including a core membership of 4 or more students, a community president, a conceptual focus area, an explanation of how the group supports well-being, a list of possible activities, and a requested budget. The DEI Committee reviews applications and oversees each group. Past Community Groups have focused on outdoor adventures, arts and crafts, music, soccer, gardening, and tea. Current students can find instructions and application forms on the SharePoint site.
Effective communication is a fundamental skill in the life of a graduate student, reaching far beyond traditional science-communication skill sets. The majority of our everyday life, inside and outside of the laboratory, is improvisational (not scripted or rehearsed). Moreover, the “Yes And” philosophy behind improvisation is, at its heart, a collaborative experience that can enhance our sense of community and belonging. Each month, students join a regional instructor in Applied Improvisation, to play games and debrief how the tools of improv theater apply to our academic spaces. Every event ends in laughter, reduced stress, and social bonding, all while building confidence, creativity, and agility in public speaking.