DivE In Event Aims to Bolster Diversity and Accessibility in Mind-Related Fields

The event featured various presentations, workshops, and panels designed to prepare students for success in graduate school.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

By Blake Cole

The University recently held its second annual DivE In weekend. The event took place over the course of a three-day weekend. DivE In, which stands for Diversity and Equity Initiative, seeks to improve diversity in fields that are related to the study of the mind, such as psychology, neuroscience, biology, linguistics, and sociology, and places a specific focus on facilitating doctoral applications.

Another major goal of the initiative is to close representational gaps in academia and the mind sciences, including at Penn, due to bias, discrimination, and inequities in access to knowledge and resources. DivE In addresses these inequities by making information, resources, support, and mentorship accessible and relevant to the needs of students from underrepresented backgrounds.

The event featured various presentations, workshops, and panels designed to prepare students for success in graduate school. These were geared toward topics such as understanding funding options, an overview of the Ph.D. application process, building an ongoing mentoring and support network, and strategizing recommendation letters. Students each met with three Penn faculty members in “mock interviews.” Some students used this time to hone their interview skills while others had more informal conversations, all engaging in a unique opportunity to connect with the exceptional faculty at Penn.

(Clockwise) Faculty mentors David Brainard, RRL Professor of Psychology; Adrianna Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Psychology; Sharon Thompson-Schill, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology; and Michael Platt, James S. Riepe University Professor, conduct mock interviews with DivE In participants.

"One thing that set us apart from other diversity initiatives related to graduate school applications is that we pair each student with a trainee-level graduate student or postdoc mentor," says Rista Plate, MindCORE Postdoctoral Fellow and event organizer. "The students meet with their mentor during the weekend and the relationship is expected to continue beyond the event. Mentors may read application materials, provide advice or perspective, and serve to build students' support networks. We hope that students leave the weekend feeling a sense of belongingness and community from the other attendees, their mentors, the DivE In organizers, and the many other volunteers, including faculty, at Penn."

The event was sponsored by Penn Arts & Sciences and MindCORE. Established in 2018, MindCORE (Mind Center for Outreach, Research, and Education) brings together mind and brain researchers across Penn to collaborate on scientific, teaching, and outreach programs.

Top row, L–R: Nicole B., Kiyan I., Carlos M., Tiffany S.  |  Bottom row, L–R: Ting Ting R., Precious R., Amaya C., Yoda A.

Below, event participants share their thoughts:

“The DivE In weekend program is a tremendous opportunity for underserved students like myself who want to learn about their academic and career goals. I know the speakers, organizers, and faculty have done an excellent job in inspiring me to work on my strengths for the application process.” – Nicole B.

“The DivE In program significantly enhanced my understanding of the Ph.D. application process. Additionally, networking with professors and graduate students who respected my non-traditional background gave me a newfound confidence in my ability to succeed as a future academic researcher.”
Kiyan I.

“DivE In was an incredible experience that exceeded all of my expectations! I made so many great connections not only with grad students and faculty but also with an amazing group of peers I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to connect with. I learned so much about the ins and outs of academia and feel a lot more confident applying to Ph.D. programs this cycle. I highly recommend this to anyone considering graduate school!! Such a memorable weekend with incredible people!!” – Carlos M.

“This weekend was extremely helpful. I’m going to be a first-generation Ph.D. and didn’t know much about the process. I also like that your mentor remains your mentor. It’s not just for the weekend. These are connections that will likely be lifelong. It was amazing. Please continue!” – Tiffany S.

“After talking to professors and current Ph.D.s and postdocs, it became more clear to me what my research interests will be for my Ph.D. study. With all the information and mentorship provided in the workshops, Ph.D. application as well as the next five-plus years feel less intimidating. I feel very supported and nourished.”
Ting Ting R.

“This weekend really opened my eyes to the graduate school process. I came into this weekend really frightful and doubtful of whether I should really apply because I felt unprepared and had no one to reach out for guidance or assistance and after this weekend, I have received so much more information that has increased my confidence and made me feel better about the path I am choosing.” – Precious R.

“I was blown away by the hard work and dedication that everyone put into making this weekend pleasurable as well as knowledgeable.” – Amaya C.

“This is incredible program to get to know if you really want to go to grad school. You get to know many students and mentors that can support you in your future career.” – Yoda A.

“DivE In weekend is a great experience to network with mentors and peers. I recommend to anyone who might want more information about graduate studies and even people who are already familiar with the processes.”  Anonymous