Building a more resilient graduate community through diversity

Over the past several months, the Graduate College has conducted a series of listening sessions with a large and diverse sample of graduate students and faculty communities. These sessions allowed us to observe how diversity aids this generation’s resiliency. As deans, we find ourselves in awe of the resiliency ASU graduate students have demonstrated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. 

Community resilience is defined by the capacity for a broad community to acknowledge and respond to acute shocks and long term stresses. As the country is managing a global pandemic, responding to social injustice, and continuing to deal with environmental crises, there is no better time to examine and understand these concepts. 

Our graduate population faces these macro-level conditions daily. To ensure that we stay focused on building community resilience and helping students cultivate resilience, we are adapting the five characteristics of community resilience that Judith Rodin outlined for communities in “Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in A World Where Things Go Wrong.”

These five characteristics, as adapted to the Graduate College, are:

  • Awareness: we aim to continuously build knowledge about the graduate students we serve and their evolving needs

  • Diverse: we will evaluate our graduate student policies through a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion 

  • Self-regulating: we create and curate the tools for graduate students to succeed in their programs with academic integrity and rigor, and help them transition toward their careers 

  • Adaptive: we address change by responding to evolving conditions and market realities through new training programs and delivery modalities

  • Integrated: we amplify and enrich the work of graduate students by serving as a connector of people and programs across disciplines  

By moving these concepts into practice, we are supporting the university in addressing the challenges of our times through new funding opportunities, professional development programs and mentorship activities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. We’ve also formed a new Graduate Student Advisory Board, whose voices will guide us in three areas of importance and improvement: academic policies, funding policies and graduate student programming. Making our community stronger through increased access and diversity will allow us to create a more adaptable, self-regulating and integrated graduate experience for all.

Celebrating the diverse voices among our graduate student population is an essential part of building a stronger, more inclusive graduate community. As Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month begins, it is an opportunity for us to take a closer look at what diversity means in this context. Hispanics and Latinos(as) account for 31% of the Phoenix metropolitan population, stemming primarily from Mexican American heritage, but also including immigrants and their descendants from Central America, the Caribbean, South America and the Iberian Peninsula. And while the percentage of our Hispanic and Latino(a) graduate student population has increased to 14% in the last ten years, the same growth is not yet reflected in ASU graduate faculty. Hispanic faculty make up 8% of that population. To increase the number of faculty from underrepresented groups, the Graduate College is working with other ASU units to implement a recently announced postdoctoral program by President Crow that can serve as a pipeline for tenure track faculty positions.

Our role at the Graduate College is to welcome and nurture talented individuals who come from diverse communities so they may succeed in professional pathways. In order for us to do this effectively, we need to hear from you. Please join us throughout the fall semester in our Grad15 Webinar series and CIRCLES Mentoring groups

Be sure to check out the Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month celebration at ASU. Together, let’s honor and cultivate the rich diversity that keeps our community strong.


Collaboratively written by:


Elizabeth Wentz, Vice Provost and Dean

Tamara Underiner, Associate Dean

Enrique R. Vivoni, Associate Dean