Sustainable Inclusive Excellence Update: Graduate Studies

The Division of Graduate Studies has generated four goals in the service of furthering diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) at WPI as a part of the Sustainable Inclusive Excellence (SIE) strategic plan initiative. Graduate Studies' four goals are:  

  1. To prioritize DEIJ within the hiring process 
  2. To improve the retention rates of underrepresented graduate students 
  3. To intentionally recruit underrepresented graduate students 
  4. To establish a culture of DEIJ within Graduate Studies 

In order to reach these goals, faculty and staff within Graduate Studies have worked hand-in-hand on a number of different initiatives. The first steps that we have taken towards our goals include: 

  • WPI’s online graduate application has been updated to provide space for applicants to select a non-binary gender identity. 
  • A team led by Assistant Dean Rory J. Flinn has been awarded a planning grant from WPI’s Vice Provost for Research to begin developing a mentorship program for underrepresented graduate students. The team will be conducting surveys and focus groups to determine the support gaps that underrepresented graduate students face, in order to design a future student support program. 
  • Graduate Studies secured a full-page ad in the fall issue of the “Diversity in Action” magazine. The ad highlights the accomplishments of Professor Catherine Whittington, who was awarded nearly $400,000 to continue her research in tissue engineering and disease modeling—including a grant from Genentech, through the University of Michigan, aimed at addressing historic racial disparities in federal funding. 
  • Graduate Studies planned and organized a visit to WPI by the UConn McNair Scholars—a prestigious program for first-generation college students with financial need, or members of a group that is traditionally underrepresented in graduate education.  
  • The Graduate Studies team, in collaboration with Dave Ortendahl, Executive Director of Corporate Relations, as well as the department of Robotics Engineering, benchmarked, offered, and enrolled two new Amazon Robotics Day 1 Fellows (D1F). The D1F was created with a bold vision, and was launched in 2021 by Amazon Robotics (AR) with a purpose of increasing the representation of Black, Latinx and Native American scientists in tech industries by supporting the academic advancement of multicultural master’s degree candidates. 
  • Graduate Studies has agreed to sponsor tuition for students who receive fellowships from the Afghan Future Fund (AFF), a program dedicated to ensuring that talented Afghans – in particular prominent women leaders, American University of Afghanistan students, journalists, civil society activists and entrepreneurs – have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. To date, WPI has enrolled two graduate students through this program, and admitted three more.  

These recent highlights represent Graduate Studies’ commitment towards making WPI a more diverse and inclusive place to study, work, and be in community. Graduate Studies recognizes that DEIJ is an institutional priority and is shifting to center DEIJ as a key part of our work.