Increasing Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CLD) in Graduate Programs

Designing robust and attractive graduate programs

  • Incorporate multicultural coursework in the curriculum. School psychology programs should offer a course devoted to multicultural studies, and multicultural topics should be infused throughout the curriculum (Newell et al., 2010; Proctor, Simpson, Levin, & Hackimer, 2014).
  • Ensure that multicultural research is represented in faculty scholarship. At least one faculty member should be actively conducting multicultural research. This research should be included on a faculty webpage. Encourage graduate student involvement in this research (Smith et al., 2016). 
  • Address social justice issues throughout coursework and program requirements. Social justice issues may be addressed through coursework, service learning experiences, and community projects (Briggs et al., 2009).
  • Create graduate preparation environments that welcome and value diversity. School psychology programs must foster a learning environment that clearly values and welcomes diversity.  These values must be pervasive and authentic and must move beyond surface-level efforts to promote diversity (e.g., mission statements that are not backed by robust plans for implementation). Grapin, Lee, and Jaafar (2015) present a multilevel framework for supporting diverse students in SPPs. Recruitment materials (e.g., brochures and website content) should emphasize and reflect the program’s commitment to diversity. For example, program faculty may include a link to NASP’s Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Policy on their program websites, or note that the program supports the policy.

    NASP also maintains a directory of Multicultural and Bilingual School Psychology Graduate Programs that demonstrate a commitment to diversity,
  • Incorporate field experiences that center on working with CLD individuals. These opportunities should be available in both practica and internship (Rogers, 2006). Make this focus apparent on the program’s website, which often serves as an important recruitment tool.
  • Ensure that program faculty represent a range of CLD backgrounds. CLD students are represented in larger numbers in programs in which at least one faculty represents a racial/ethnic minority background (Rogers, 2006).

Recruiting a diverse graduate student body

  • Emphasize that school psychology is a profession that values diversity. A commitment to diversity should be evident in the program’s coursework, research, faculty and student bodies. For most programs, passive diversity recruitment will not be sufficient for making significant progress in the diversity of student body. Hence programs should make an active effort to recruit diverse students (e.g., Grapin, Bocanegra, Green, Lee, & Jaafar, 2016). NASP is firmly committed to increasing diversity in the profession, and general recommendations are provided in NASP’s position statement on the Recruitment of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse School Psychologists in Graduate Education Programs.
  • Foster relationships with institutions that traditionally serve racial and ethnic minorities (e.g., Historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions). Outreach efforts should be provided at those institutions and graduate students from those institutions should be included in the recruitment efforts (Chandler, 2011; Graves & Wright, 2007; Rogers & Molina, 2006).
  • Make direct and personal contact with CLD applicants.  Direct, personal contact should be made with applicants in order to assure them of program fit. Such direct contact is particularly important for CLD students who may have concerns about fitting into the program. Ideally, this personal contact should be made by a faculty member or graduate student from a CLD background or involved in CLD issues/research (Chandler, 2011).
  • Offer funding opportunities through the institution and through external grants.  For some CLD graduate students, funding opportunities may be critical for ensuring program completion. Hence, the potential for graduate funding is likely to increase the effectiveness of graduate student diversity recruitment efforts (Chandler, 2011).
  • Implement admissions procedures that yield a highly qualified and diverse student body.These procedures may emphasize applicant interviews, review of personal statements, and letters of recommendation while de-emphasizing components such as Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (Chandler, 2011).
  • Invite prospective students for on-campus visits. This may allow them to establish more personal connections with faculty and students. Interpersonal interaction with a school psychologist has been found to be a significant predictor of entering the profession (Bocanegra, Newell, & Gubi, 2016).
  • Acknowledge that all program faculty have a role in recruiting a diverse student body. University faculty are often very busy with numerous competing obligations. Thus, program leaders should acknowledge diversity recruitment as a priority and afford adequate time and resources to contribute to recruitment efforts (Vasquez et al., 2016).
  • Reach out to minority undergraduates within the institution. Due to school psychology being underrepresented in undergraduate education and students being generally unaware of the profession, presentations to racial/ethnic student organizations and undergraduate courses are recommended (Bocanegra, Gubi, Fan, & Hansmann, 2016).
  • Specify objective and measurable goals for increasing student diversity. These goals should be suited to the program’s individual characteristics. Specific and purposeful plans should be made to achieve these goals. Progress made towards these goals, along with data-informed modifications to recruitment plans, should be reviewed annually.
  • When working with cultures that value social support from family, incorporate family in the recruitment process.  Individuals from some CLD groups may strongly value family input when making decisions about career paths and programs. Including families in the recruitment process may help prospective students determine whether the program is a good fit (Chandler, 2011).
  • Assist students in identifying programs with multicultural interests. Recent notable efforts from APA Division 16 have been made to create a database of faculty with multicultural interests. Prospective students should be encouraged to access the National Directory of Graduate Faculty Addressing Cultural and Diversity Issues in School Psychology at http://www.d16cema.org/.