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Increasing Diversity at SIOP:  The Future is Now

Miguel A. Quiones
University of Arizona 
Chair of CEMA

Marina Field
Columbia Teachers College Doctoral Candidate

The first installment of this column in the most recent issue of TIP outlined a number of goals and aspirations for CEMA in the coming 2 years. In this issue, we will focus on the topic of minority graduate student representation at SIOP. The largest increase in ethnic minority representation at SIOP is among students, and their continued involvement in the Society is critical to the future success of our Society. A recent TIP article by Thomas and Clark (2003) outlines a number of barriers to inclusion within I-O graduate programs and SIOPidentified by a number of ethnic minority graduate students. These include the following:

  • Lack of knowledge about I-O resulting in them learning about the field late in their undergraduate career
  • Lack of appreciation for diversity among doctoral programs
  • Lack of appreciation for research on diversity issues
  • Lack of ethnic minority faculty
  • Reluctance to be a token

Clearly, these barriers are interrelated. For instance, lack of knowledge about I-O results in fewer minority students entering the field, which leads to fewer minority faculty to mentor the next generation of students. The problem is a classic vicious cycle with no simple solutions. I-O programs must work harder to increase diversity in student and faculty ranks. It appears that at least we are headed in the right direction because we are writing this column to discuss ways of reaching out to the increasing numbers of minority graduate students entering the field.

When most minority students are the only ones in their program, they have nobody with whom to discuss these issues. In fact, Thomas and Clark (2003) report that one of the most important reasons for attending SIOP cited by minority students was the opportunity to meet and network with students from other programs. However, substantial relationships are difficult to build through a once-a-year meeting. The conference can be a much more rewarding experience if students are able to have meaningful discussions throughout the year. 

We feel that fostering this type of exchange is the primary purpose of CEMA. The committee already tries to accomplish this goal through the annual business meeting and reception at SIOP. These events are very important and will continue in the years ahead. However, as a first step, we would like to revive the CEMA electronic mailing list so students can have a mechanism for discussing the general topic of diversity at SIOP and begin to identify solutions. We also hope that this communication will lead to the identification of a group of committed student leaders that can help chart a path for a CEMA student organization. 

We encourage all students of minority background to visit the CEMA Web page (http://www.siop.org/comm/cema.aspx) and follow the instructions for subscribing to the CEMA electronic mailing list. Although the mailing list has been up and running for several years, it is currently not being used to its full potential.

So what types of discussions are we hoping will take place in the mailing list? First, we would like the mailing list to function as a place to meet other students who are ethnic minorities. Common experiences can be shared and bonds based on mutual interests can be made. Furthermore, the list can be used to share research and/or internship opportunities. Most importantly, we can begin a discussion on creating the right model for SIOP to become a more inclusive society. Those having experience with efforts such as the PhD Project can share their thoughts and ideas on which features of that effort can be duplicated within SIOP and which ones would need to be adapted. Perhaps research ideas can be discussed and collaborations can be formed.

We know that this is not a novel idea, but we hope that those reading this article will heed our call and begin to discuss this very important issue. We think SIOP should be a model for other societies to follow. However, we need to open up some new channels of communication and empower those who have creative solutions to a very complex issue. So, lets meet on the Internet!

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