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Building a bridge for diversity

Every year, almost 100 college and graduate students from diverse backgrounds come to Emory for the annual STEM Research and Career Symposium, where over two days they get a smorgasbord of academic research presentations along with networking, mentoring, and recruitment opportunities. That early outreach to underrepresented students is just one of many ways that the Laney Graduate School (LGS) is living out its mission to foster an environment of inclusion and diversity.

"In essence, the LGS serves a bridge for diversity between graduate faculty and students," says Dean Lisa Tedesco, "and in creating a pipeline of diverse students coming into Emory and diverse faculty of the future going out."

Recently LGS added a director of diversity, community, and recruitment to its leadership team. Damon Williams works closely with faculty to enhance diversity in student recruitment and mentoring, and he's establishing an Emory presence in national networks. By affiliating with organizations such as the Mellon Mays and McNair Scholars programs, LGS is being proactive in reaching out to underrepresented students, recruiting them before they apply.

Given Tedesco's background, it comes as no surprise that diversity is at the forefront of LGS programming. She was part of teams at the University of Michigan that laid out plans to ensure a diverse campus after a Supreme Court challenge on affirmative action, and she subsequently worked on national efforts to develop a diverse pipeline for the health professions and address diversity in health care. While she has seen progress in higher education on diversity matters, she has learned that recruiting a truly diverse faculty and student body "takes a generation." Also important to the effort, she says, is looking beyond status schools to recruit the best and brightest from many institutions across the country.

"No other institution has the power to be as transformative and to shape the next generation as higher education," says Tedesco. "The extent to which we support diversity reflects how authentically transformative we can be."

Editor's note: Keith Wilkinson, Edward Morgan, Pat Marsteller, and others first proposed the STEM Research and Career Symposium and continue to play active roles in the annual event.