CAA DIVERSITY STATEMENT FAQS
Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors on February 19, 2023.
It has become increasingly commonplace for candidates to be asked to consider diversity and to provide a personal statement of diversity practices when applying for jobs, fellowships, grants, and promotions to tenure. A diversity statement may demonstrate applicant awareness, sensitivity, and experience with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The following FAQs should be viewed as a living document, and submissions of additional questions and feedback are encouraged to ensure the currency of its content. For additional information, please contact the Committee on Diversity Practices, Student and Emerging Committee Professionals Committee, and/or the Advocacy Committee. To serve on a committee and/or to become more involved in CAA standards and guidelines, please contact Maeghan Donohue, Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Planning, Diversity, and Governance (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- What is diversity?
We all have unique subject positions and experiences that inform our worldview and impact our professional and personal lives. Diversity may include a range of subject positions, including but not limited to age, ethnicity, gender identity and gender expression, language differences, nationality, caregiving, physical, mental, and intellectual disabilities, race, religion, sexual orientation skin color, and socioeconomic status.
- What is a diversity statement?
A diversity statement is a piece of reflective writing that demonstrates an awareness of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in various subject positions. It can be a reflection on how diversity impacts and informs the choices an applicant makes in personal life, work, practice, teaching, and/or scholarship.
- Why is a diversity statement valuable?
Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) plays an important role in our lives and in the interactions within our workplaces and other environments. DEAI positions and appointments can be separately funded and beginning fairly recently are often included in organizational missions. They identify the various populations, communities, and audiences that are served. The diversity statement also allows the organization to review an applicant’s experience, approach, and engagement and to consider how they align with organizational goals and desired DEAI outcomes in various areas. These areas may include pedagogy, community engagement, curriculum development, research, teaching practices, departmental goals, assessment, and hiring practices.
- What types of diversity questions might be included in an application?
Diversity-focused questions are often context-specific. Some examples: An educator applying for a teaching position may address how course content, learning objectives, and teaching methods will meet the needs of a diverse student body. An artist may be asked how a project will address diversity in the impacted community. An administrator may be asked about their experiences with DEAI and directing advocacy. Legally, employers cannot require personal disclosure of identity information from applicants.
- What should be included in a diversity statement?
Diversity statements often depend on areas of specialization (studio art, design practice, art history, curatorial, administration, and others). Common questions addressed include:
- What does diversity look like in the workplace, job site, or classroom?
- How do DEIA decisions inform research, practice, methods, and/or pedagogical approaches?
- How does the applicant support diverse groups of students, staff, and other faculty to improve equity and access in the organization?
- How do classroom environments and/or project formats support ongoing diversity and inclusionary practices for lifelong learning?
To begin, read the application and/or position listing carefully, then research the institution and its history, goals, and impact to assess organizational needs and areas of growth. Consider how your experiences may potentially add value to the institution's goals. For an academic, a diversity statement might examine:
- How experience and background influences their approach to the field
- How DEAI impacts engagement with students, college, and university goals
- How diverse perspectives and issues of inclusion, equity, and access impact their practice and research. (More specifically, they may also reflect upon how DEAI is considered in course planning, curriculum, pedagogy, classroom management, and assessment)
- How opportunities for increased access are created for sensory, linguistic, or cognitive diversity
- How might DEAI be employed in the safeguarding of students who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), disabled, and/or LGBTQQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual, plus)?
- How might participation in service activities relate to diversity?
- How might diversity function in terms of mentorship, advocacy, research, development, and management?
- How valuable is self-identification and/or writing from lived experience? Do I need to disclose personal information?
Writing from lived experience is important, as it allows you to reflect upon your standpoint and experiences. It is not required. In specific cases, it can be illegal to be asked to disclose certain personal information by a hiring manager. Self-identification, while sometimes helpful to an institution or employer, may not be right for the applicant’s comfort. It will be helpful to research the culture of the organization, speak to other employees about the work environment, and to become familiar with the organization’s hiring practices, pastoral care, and mission. Learning more about areas of specialization and job or grant requirements will also be beneficial. Instead of self-identification, applicants may choose to focus on how their professional practices address issues of inclusion, diversity, equity and access. The statement may address some of the obstacles faced by underrepresented, marginalized and disenfranchised groups and document how this is addressed in research, teaching, and service. Speaking to personal experience should be thoughtful but not bring harm to yourself or others through disclosure. If mentioning an experience with a student or mentee, do not include personal identifying information.
- What are some writing tips for a diversity statement?
- Carefully review and assess opportunity specifications and guidelines.
- Tailor each diversity statement to the specific job/grant or project being applied for. This may involve changing the statement to fit the application.
- Use precise language and keep statements to no more than two pages or requirements presented.
- Write in a paragraph form, as an essay or thesis statement.
- Use simple formatting.
- Review the statement to remove redundancies in language. A short statement can be more effective than one that reiterates the same point multiple times.
- Use of the first person.
- If applicable, include personal experience and how that fits in with a broader lens.
- Cite examples based on experiences.
- How can I write a diversity statement if I do not self-identify as a part of a marginalized community?
Experiences are unique, and diversity can include a number of subject positions and encounters. This can include being self-aware of privilege; acknowledging this and addressing how access has benefited you and how you may have functioned as an ally in shifting the power structure through teaching practices, research, curation, and practice. You might also address the ways your methods have changed over time, as you have learned more about diversity and inclusion. Have you been involved in any sensitivity trainings, volunteer work, and/or academic service activities that address diversity and inclusion? How have you worked to improve DEAI in your teaching? How does your research, scholarship, or making practice address diversity?
Ultimately, everyone is implicated in diversity issues, including having access to privilege and power rather than tokenizing identity. Diversity includes various perspectives that inform our worldview and our thoughts, actions, and behaviors toward others. They also include behaviors that involve making access for reevaluating dominant paradigms, multiple perspectives, and historically disenfranchised voices and peoples.
- What is a search committee looking for in a diversity statement and how is it evaluated?
Search committee members look for evidence in the statement of a commitment to DEAI in both content and structure. While use of a candidate’s self-identification, community, and investment in DEAI in a statement can be appreciated, this is not expected. Most significant is evidence-based information of a candidates teaching/practice and that they address this metacognitively with their students. In other words, critically reflective methods that help teachers and learners understand how they learn, such as through critical race theory. Search committee members also seek information on delivery of content, assignment types, learning goals, assessment, and evaluation of students. Use language and a tone that reflects values, knowledge, and practices. Be self-reflexive, honest, and demonstrate with examples of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access beyond tokenization and buzz words.
The following are three examples of actual recent job postings and how they ask for a diversity statement:
Position 1: Limited-Term Faculty
A diversity statement that includes a plan of how equity, diversity, and inclusion principles will be applied in teaching and service.
All candidates to demonstrate their ability to make learning accessible and inclusive for a diverse student population.
Position 2: Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
A letter of interest including teaching experience and philosophy, overview of creative work, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Candidates from underrepresented groups, women, and those whose knowledge or skills support an inclusive culture and learning environment are especially encouraged to apply; encourage inquiries from candidates who contribute to the cultural and ethnic diversity of our college.
Position 3: Assistant Professor of Art History
Diversity statement that articulates an understanding of how structural inequities inform/affect the fields of art history, details the candidate’s contributions toward supporting underrepresented groups and/or creating a supportive learning environment, and describes the candidate’s future DEIA goals as they relate to teaching, research, and/or service (1–2 pages)
Position 4: Associate Curator
Demonstrated commitment to equity and inclusion in museum practice and to engaging a wide range of audiences and constituencies.
- How can a diversity statement be updated and tailored according to my discipline or for a desired role?
Once you are confident that the diversity statement reflects your values, knowledge, and practices, it can be used for many different job applications. Much like any professional statement, it is important to take the time to add to and edit the statement as experiences and knowledge grow and shift. Importantly, just like tailoring a CV or cover letter to a particular role, adapting a diversity statement can help to demonstrate the unique qualities of the candidacy. In each update and change of the statement, review the values outlined by the organization, and department or area of specialization you are applying to, these can often be found on a university website or a departmental page. Cite examples that demonstrate how you've handled similar situations or where you can add valuable experience and knowledge to initiatives. As with all aspects of a job application, this statement should exemplify and highlight your unique suitability for the position and where and how you will add value to the institution. Alongside your teaching philosophy, the diversity statement should demonstrate your methods and thinking (the way you do things). Reflect on the pitfalls, growth, and transformations in your field and think critically about how diversity and inclusion might impact the profession.
- Beyond the diversity statement, how can I prepare for interview questions about diversity, inclusion and equity?
In addition to the diversity statement, diversity and inclusion may also be briefly addressed in your application cover letter or teaching statement. Beyond your statement, the search committee may ask questions regarding diversity in interviews. You may be asked to address issues around diversity and inclusion in a teaching demonstration or in a public lecture as well. These opportunities to further discuss issues of inclusion, diversity, equity and access often focus on diversity in your pedagogy, research, and service. How do you participate in diversity practices and what does this mean to your research, work, and other service?
Remember you are also interviewing the committee too. Assess the institution, how does it fit with your values? Consider teaching load, makeup of the student population, status of institution whether R1, R2, private liberal arts college, small regional university, or community college. What are the regional and cultural differences of its location? What is the culture of the university like? Responses can be shifted and tailored based on these considerations and contexts. In other words: research. Contacting professional resources and reviewing professional organizations’ webpages, faculty bios, media feeds, research, and books can all be a part of your initial research. Mentors and colleagues may also provide later feedback prior to finalizing your statement. Looking at some sample diversity statements may help to clarify the range of experiences to draw from and to contextualize them into a clear statement. These may also help you discover a narrative voice for your statement and analyze your statement’s language (use of passive/active voice, tone, tense) hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress (London and New York: Routledge, 1994). These FAQs were developed and written by members of the Committee on Diversity Practices (CDP) and the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee (SEPC). CDP Contributors: Stefanie Snider, Gillian Sneed, Rachel de Cuba SEPC Contributors: Julian Adoff, Tirumular [Drew] Narayanan, and Ehryn Torrell.
Authors and Contributors
Remember you are also interviewing the committee too. Assess the institution, how does it fit with your values? Consider teaching load, makeup of the student population, status of institution whether R1, R2, private liberal arts college, small regional university, or community college. What are the regional and cultural differences of its location? What is the culture of the university like? Responses can be shifted and tailored based on these considerations and contexts. In other words: research.
Contacting professional resources and reviewing professional organizations’ webpages, faculty bios, media feeds, research, and books can all be a part of your initial research. Mentors and colleagues may also provide later feedback prior to finalizing your statement.
Looking at some sample diversity statements may help to clarify the range of experiences to draw from and to contextualize them into a clear statement. These may also help you discover a narrative voice for your statement and analyze your statement’s language (use of passive/active voice, tone, tense)
hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress (London and New York: Routledge, 1994).
These FAQs were developed and written by members of the Committee on Diversity Practices (CDP) and the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee (SEPC).
CDP Contributors: Stefanie Snider, Gillian Sneed, Rachel de Cuba
SEPC Contributors: Julian Adoff, Tirumular [Drew] Narayanan, and Ehryn Torrell.