Announcement of Funded Proposals for the Grant for Advancing Social Justice and Diversity in Graduate Education

The Graduate School is pleased to announce our winners for the Grant for Advancing Social Justice and Diversity in Graduate Education. We received a number of compelling proposals and after review from a panel comprised of graduate students and a vote from the graduate student community we are excited to move forward on three proposals.

Mentoring First-Generation African Students During the Graduate Application Process

Team Members

Nokwanda Ndlovu Grava
Department of Educational Studies, College of Education

Donovan Colquitt
Department of Engineering Education, College of Engineering

Faculty Advisor

Amanda Case, Ph.D.
Department of Educational Studies, College of Education

More than 40% (N=4416) of the graduate student population at Purdue is comprised of international students, making Purdue one of the top enrollers of international graduate students amongst U.S. colleges and universities (Purdue University, 2020). However, only 3.5% (N=158) of those students are from African countries, which is lowest enrollment of all international regions. Though the reasons for this underrepresentation are multiple, those reasons do not include a lack of qualified students. Rather, it is more likely that Purdue has yet to establish effective partnerships with universities in African countries that can assist in the recruitment of students for graduate study. The goal of this project is to increase diversity of graduate students at Purdue by mentoring Black African students through the graduate school application process. To do so, the project will build on existing relationships the lead team member has with historically Black universities in South Africa. Professors at those institutions will identify first-generation Black students who have the desire and drive to pursue graduate studies at Purdue. The team members will mentor the students through the graduate school application process, providing guidance on the creation of a CV, feedback on application essays and other aspects of the application, and practice for interviews. Funding will also be provided for up to 3 candidates to take the GRE and TOEFL. After 12 months, a final project report will be written that details: a) number of applications submitted, b) results of the application process, c) status of on-going relationship with universities.


Scholarly Activism: Using Classrooms as a Workspace for Enacting Change Within Systems of Oppression

Team Members

Fantasi Nicole (Curry), Casey Haney, Moses Olayemi
Department of Engineering Education, College of Engineering

Janelle Grant
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education

Maya Luster
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, College of Engineering

Araba Dennis
Department of American Studies, College of Liberal Arts

Faculty Advisors

Stephanie Masta Zywicki
Assistant Professor
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education

Jennifer DeBoer
Associate Professor
Department of Engineering Education, College of Engineering

Creating change at the institutional level is critically important to graduate academic life, and the increased attention on the Black Lives Matter movement calls us to acknowledge and challenge systemic inequities, especially those experienced by students. In the Graduate School at Purdue, there is representation of different racially marginalized groups, but representation does not ensure equity. For example, equity allows for those that are represented to be fully included when it comes to institutional decisions, such as leadership, structure, and policy, and literature has shown that racially marginalized students do not feel safe and valued on university spaces (Robinson, 2013). Accordingly, this grant proposes a graduate course that employs critical pedagogy and methodologies to cultivate student activists who are able to produce research that is aimed at informing institutional policy that is dedicated to challenging systemic inequalities that hinder equity for racially marginalized graduate students. This proposed project has the primary goal of cultivating student-scholar activists who aim to use their academic abilities and activist interests to sustainably and concretely affect institutional change. The funding from this grant will be used to support the students’ projects that are developed through this course.


Tenaciously Visible: Community Storytelling and Connections for Identities their Intersections

Team Members

Shreeya (Siya) Kulkarni
Krannert School of Management 

Muhammad Hassan Qadeer Butt
Department of Comparative Literature, College of Liberal Arts

We propose an intersectional community story telling project which seeks to both highlight and mitigate the prevalence of impostor syndrome in graduate students from under-represented minorities (URM). Research has shown that imposter phenomenon is disproportionally affects the URM graduate students and thus leads to the cultivation of a sense of exclusion and isolation among them, which is detrimental to the materialization of graduate school as a place where URM students can find academic and institutional belonging. We believe that silence and stigma around the experience of imposter syndrome in URM students perpetuates the experience of exclusion. To this end, we aim to counter that by making visible both the success and failures of URM graduate students, thereby countering the alienation and reductiveness that comes from the single-story narration of URM graduate life. This will be documented on a website and we will welcome URM students to share their stories and actively reach out for interviews as well. These stories will serve as insights to both faculty members and the graduate student body at large as to the unique challenges that URM students face during the course of their studies. We believe that such honest story telling will cultivate a sense of belonging and inclusion in the graduate school for the URM students, thereby making it a more diverse and just place.