Hiring and graduate admissions determine the demographics of the department and so are an important part of moving the needle towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. At the undergraduate level, while admission to UCLA is not within the control of departments, the department can play a role in facilitating transfer of UCLA undergraduates from other majors into EPSS. We have reviewed hiring and admissions policies as they relate to EPSS and summarize our findings below. We begin by highlighting our specific recommendations for change to departmental policy that arose from our review. We then summarize a list of resources that we have found particularly valuable and that have informed our thinking.
Proposals for change
-Review of our hiring and admissions practices by a DEI professional. We have endeavored to identify opportunities for positive change, but we are not experts and inevitably we have missed things. We note that the department is in the process of hiring a DEI coordinator and this person would be ideally placed to conduct such a review.
– Offer training to graduate students and post-docs in hiring policies so that they can more effectively participate in the process. Graduate students currently interact with faculty candidates in a number of ways: by attending the job talk, going to lunch with the candidate, and sometimes in one-on-one meetings. The department values their impressions but their feedback would be more useful if they were given additional information about the goals and processes of faculty hiring. Training will also help grad students and post-docs to navigate the hiring process in their own careers.
Graduate Student Admissions
– Include within the normal search process applicants who have requested a fee waiver. The application fee can be a serious burden to some applicants. Applicants requesting a fee waiver must undergo an additional layer of assessment to determine whether or not they qualify. Currently, this process is so time consuming that faculty only see the application after most admissions decisions have already been made.
– Encourage an evaluation of a candidate’s perseverance to recognize those applicants who have overcome hardships in attaining academic excellence. This might be done by adding a category to the existing rubric.
– Enhance the transparency of the admissions process, for example, by making the evaluation rubric for graduate student admissions public by posting it on the departmental web site.
– Define Cota-Robles in the application process with e.g. a link as not everyone knows what this is. The faculty try their best to recognize when a student ought to be considered for this fellowship, so it might be okay if a student isn’t fully aware of this opportunity.
– Streamline the process by which UCLA undergraduates who seek to change their major to EPSS are admitted to our degree program. Current retention rates of undergraduates across the physical sciences is remarkably low, but it is very high in EPSS. This presents an opportunity for our department and for students who may otherwise not be able to succeed at UCLA.
Review of Current policies
Not all information is accessible to students and staff. Therefore reflections on our own experiences of what admissions and/or hiring should be like to foster a diverse and inclusive community are included.
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) statements included in a standard job or admissions advertisement:
Postdoc application: “ We are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community at UCLA. We seek to build academic environments where diverse groups of people with a variety of viewpoints and ideas can thrive and work together. We therefore encourage applicants from those from under-represented groups and backgrounds to apply.”
Assistant Researcher: “The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or protected veteran status. For the complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy see: https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4000376/DiscriminatioHarassmentAffirmAction.
The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or protected veteran status. For the complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy, see: UC Nondiscrimination & Affirmative Action Policy, https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4000376/DiscHarassAffirmAction”
Search Waivers for Academic Appointees at the University of California: “The University of California’s commitment to diversity, equal opportunity and nondiscrimination recognizes that a diverse academic employee workforce enhances our academic mission of teaching, research, and service. The University also recognizes that a diverse workforce is essential for maintaining our standing as a public university dedicated to serving the needs of an increasingly diverse state. As an employer and federal contractor, the University of California is required to provide equal employment opportunity and to identify and address underutilization of protected classes, including women, underrepresented minorities, individuals with disabilities, and protected veterans in our academic job groups. Conducting full and open searches for academic employment positions supports the University of California in fulfilling these requirements under federal and state laws.”
Graduate Student Application: “UCLA is committed to increasing diversity in graduate education. We embrace the principles of diversity and inclusion to understand, appreciate, and respect differences in cultures and customs, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual preferences, and political points of view. The Office of Diversity, Admissions, and Inclusion (DIA) in the Graduation Division at 1247 Murphy Hall is open Monday through Friday, 9:00am-4:00pm to answer any and all of your questions regarding diversity in admissions and inclusion efforts. If you need online assistance with your application, please email DIA. The on-campus, UC-wide, and California-based programs that DIA and other UCLA units sponsor for current and aspiring graduate students can be found on the diversity resources page.”
Are there other inclusion statements and resources publicly available?
- The Office of Diversity, Admissions, and Inclusion (DIA) in the Graduation Division at 1247 Murphy Hall is open Monday through Friday, 9:00am-4:00pm to answer any questions regarding diversity in admissions and inclusion efforts. Online assistance with applications can also email DIA. The on-campus, UC-wide, and California-based programs that DIA and other UCLA units sponsor for current and aspiring graduate students can be found on the diversity resources page.
Where are advertisements posted or sent? Are there other strategies for reaching applicants for hiring and/or admissions, e.g. job fairs, showcases?
- Postdoc positions found on academic job advertising websites (Inside Higher Ed, Professor Positions, HERC jobs, Metro Los Angeles Jobs, Jobs trabajo.org)
- Expanding currently
What are the requirements for an applicant, e.g. letters of recommendations, fees/test scores/grades? Is providing any of these a potential barrier that could be further lowered or removed? Are there any problematic questions asked?
Directly from: https://epss.ucla.edu/graduate/admissions/ and the UCLA grad student application portal
The UCLA Graduate Division retains the official application information and the mandatory application fee ($105 for US citizens and permanent residents; $125 for all other applicants).
The Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences Department requires the following additional information:
From the UCLA Graduate Division Online Application
- Basic Information
- Biographical data
- Asks for gender identity and expression: How do you describe yourself? What sex were you assigned at birth? Sexual Orientation? Preferred pronouns?
- UCLA ID
- Citizenship and Residency
- Plans for Graduate Study
- Academic History and transcripts
- Additional academic info
- Awards and Publications
- GRE Score is optional.
- TOEFL required where applicable.
- Statement of Purpose (please upload under “supporting documents”) (There is a place to upload it under “statement of Purpose”
- Personal Statement : Please respond to one or more of the following prompts. Your statement can be up to 500 words in length (approximately 1-page, single spaced, using 1-inch margins and 12-point font). To be considered for a Cota-Robles or Graduate Opportunity fellowship, be sure to describe your contributions to diversity. The University of California Diversity Statement can be found online.
- Are there educational, personal, cultural, economic, or social experiences, not described in your Statement of Purpose, that have shaped your academic journey? If so, how? Have any of these experiences provided a unique perspective(s) that you would contribute to your program, field or profession?
- Describe challenge(s) or barriers that you have faced in your pursuit of higher education. What motivated you to persist, and how did you overcome them? What is the evidence of your persistence, progress or success?
- How have your life experiences and educational background informed your understanding of the barriers facing groups that are underrepresented in higher education?
- How have you been actively engaged (e.g., through participation, employment, service, teaching or other activities) in programs or activities focused on increasing participation by groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education?
- How do you intend to engage in scholarly discourse, research, teaching, creative efforts, and/or community engagement during your graduate program that have the potential to advance diversity and equal opportunity in higher education?
- How do you see yourself contributing to diversity in your profession after you earn your advanced degree at UCLA?
- Survey Information – How did you learn about the UCLA program to which you are applying? What contact have you had with UCLA? List the other academic institutions to which you are applying. Identify agency or exchange program support if applicable.
- Professional Experience
- Fee Waiver
- Problematic sometimes causes separation of applications and delays. We suggest that we push to find a solution to this problem.
- Suggestion: add a line that if you are applying for a fee waiver, you should directly contact the advisor you are interested in to streamline the process.
- Resume Upload (optional but beneficial)
- Recommendations (3 letters of reference submitted electronically)
The University requires that you complete the fields under:
- Disclosure Statement (personal statement)
- Biographical Data
In addition, we require receipt of one set of official transcripts from all institutions attended since secondary school. These materials must be mailed directly to Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences.
How are applicants/applications evaluated? Is that process and/or rubric public? What kind of biases are introduced in this process and what strategies are used to address these, e.g. removing applicant names?
- The rubric for graduate applications is not widely publicized, but nor is it private. Here is our Rubric:
- Faculty Review (rate 1-5 with 5 being the highest)
- Strength of background preparation (institution, major, GPA, courses)
- Statement of Purpose, appropriateness to UCLA faculty
- Letters of recommendation
- SUMMARY EVALUATION
- Admission? (Y/N)
- Are you willing (and able) to offer GSR support? (Y/N)
- The Departmental Graduate Advisor assigns applicants to one of four Area Counselors: Geology, Geochemistry, Geophysics and Space Physics, Planetary. Each Area Counselor then assigns three faculty to review the file using the rubric above. Each Area then has a meeting at which the Area Counselor presides and all faculty are invited to attend. Each applicant is discussed in turn and decisions are made regarding admissibility and potential sources of support. The Graduate Advisor then assembles information gathered from the Area meetings and decides on a final list of offers.
Faculty applicants are evaluated in a variety of ways. One of these is via a survey that is distributed to departmental members asking them to rate applicants on a variety of attributes. A copy of the survey is pasted here:
Who is on selection committees and who makes the final decisions? Who interacts with the applicants?
- The Departmental Graduate Advisor assigns applicants to one of four Area Counselors: Geology, Geochemistry, Geophysics and Space Physics, Planetary. Each Area Counselor then assigns three faculty to review the file using the rubric below. Each Area then has a meeting at which the Area Counselor presides and all Area faculty are invited to attend.
- How often are new Counselors selected? – every 3-4 years maybe?
- Lauri interacts with applicants
- Potential advisor interacts with accepted applicant
- Suggestion: in some cases communication about money, and where your money will be coming from, is not always 100% clear. For example, students who have two potential advisors coming in. it is not always clear right away, which advisor is providing funding, or if both somehow are. Another example: knowing how often you will need to TA. –
- suggestion: more emphasis on money/taxes in the 495 class in the first quarter of grad school.
- Suggestion: documentation on taxes in your funding letter
- Suggestion: more transparency on summer funding year to year
Has your hiring and/or admissions process been evaluated by outside consultants? What is the process for changing it?
- Process for changing admissions: There is little hard documentation, so if a process needs to be changed, faculty discuss it and implement it year to year.
- Suggestions: keep a hard copy of the process that is physically updated year-to-year. Keep a presentation of the process so it can be explained to and discussed with any new committee members each year. We have a written copy of the process above, so this document can be used as a source to be updated in the years to come.
- What would an outside evaluation look like?
- We are hiring a new Department DEI coordinator – suggestion: they could look into this.
Has your university or company implemented or considered strategies like cohort hiring, mentoring, dual career support and partner hires, re-visioning your work culture, or other considerations outlined in “Leveraging Promising Practices”6?
|Implemented at UCLA EPSS?
|How is it/can it be implemented?
|Admitting a group of students who are not assigned to a specific advisor – they must establish an advisor prior to their first exam.
|No, but we encourage a cohort environment
|EPSS assigns students to an advisor upon acceptance to the program.We do encourage a cohort environment by encouraging bonding at events like prospective student visit day. See below for a pros and cons list of implementing this strategy at EPSS
|Establishing relationships and building experiences prior to the new hire/student’s arrival/ application to the program.This mentorship period can lead to more recruitment, and successful transition into the department as the new student/hire
|Informally – Undergraduate students reach out to faculty themselves. Formally – advisor student mentorship
|Faculty should encourage undergraduate research during classes.The grad students and undergraduate students in the department have started a family mentorship program that began spring 2021 – families of ~ 6 undergrads and grads, encouraged to socialize and share advice.Undergraduates are invited to participate in the annual student research symposium, encouraging them to get involved and find a mentorship A formal mentorship program could broaden our reach to students outside of UCLA’s undergraduates – increasing our recruitment success.
|Dual career/Partner Hires
|Supporting the professional needs of potential hires’ partners. This can lead to better recruitment and more successful transitions for new hires.
|https://www.apo.ucla.edu/faculty-career-development/managing-dual-careers :UCLA has a number of resources available to assist with dual-career partner employment.HERC Higher Education Resource Consortium
|Re-visioning your work culture
|“Focuses on how various forms of identity-based marginalization are embedded in institutional values, systems and structures” (Griffin et al. 2020)
|How often do we re-evaluate?
|Examples of questions we can potentially re-evaluate within a department:According to Griffin et al. 2020, when it comes to tenure requirements, expectations of teaching and service can fall disproportionately on women faculty and faculty of color.Another example could be leave for infant care
|In rare circumstances, and on a case-by-case basis, the requirement of conducting an open search prior to review for appointment may be waived.
|Yes – UC wide
|Guiding Principles Search Waivers for Academic Appointees at the University of California:https://medschool.ucla.edu/workfiles/Site-AcademicAffairs/GuidingPrinciplesSearchWaiversforAcademicAppointeesattheUniversityofCalifornia.pdf
|Advertise our department so that everyone knows we exist, what we do, and thinks it is good.
|Yes, but we could increase our recruitment
|Outreach – we participate in some great outreach events where we represent our department – EYU, IOTMN. Organizations like SWG and Queers in STEM organize outreach events as well, where our department has some great representation. we used to go to schools every week/ every other week to represent our department specifically – it would be great to ramp up outreach again Develop relationships with surround undergraduate institutions: mailing lists. Direct, recommend undergraduates at other institutions to apply to UCLA, or connect them with someone in our department. Word of mouth from undergraduate professors (this is the only way some of us learn about UCLA EPSS) so developing connections to other departments and institutions is really important.
|Minimize bias of hiring students based on network and who they already know
|Without a guaranteed advisor upon entry, students may be more likely to leave the program at the 1st exam stage because they had trouble finding an advisorCould be helped with formal mentor program in this (non-advisor mentors)
Example of Deliverable from Berkeley: https://urgeoscience.org/index.php?gf-download=2021%2F03%2Fhiring2021-berkeley.pdf&form-id=4&field-id=6&hash=81b42aaba5aa66229351187daf0122932b56ed345c173778060aa8a8c8769124