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GoneWilde

Am I Allowed to Be Quirky on Diversity Statements?

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So, I'm white, a woman studying humanities, relatively middle class, etc. No ~real~ diversity to speak of. However, I am left-handed. So I was wondering if it would be worthwhile to have a little fun with it and tell an anecdote about right-handed scissors or desks shaped wrong and use that to segue into overcoming adversity in general. Most of the places I would be applying to state outright that these are just for screening for potential scholarships/diversity of the school body, etc, so this wouldn't really help to do that but it might help adcoms see more of my personality. Is this doable or is it too far out there and would make me seem naive/pretentious/etc?

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Don't do this.

If I was reading a candidate's diversity statement and read what you described, it would seem that you are being dismissive of the real struggles people from under-represented backgrounds actually face. At best, you would seem naive and uninformed, and at worst, it would appear that you are co-opting a space that is not meant for you. To me, this would be like showing up to a campus support group for people struggling with X and telling everyone about how great you are instead of sharing relevant experiences.

And if the reader doesn't actually care about diversity in their student population, then it is unlikely that being quirky here will help you anyhow. They might not even read that essay.

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Now hopefully something more useful/helpful. Have you done any work towards increasing diversity in your undergraduate student groups or overall population? Generally, an undergraduate may not have much influence on the admissions process at their school, but there are smaller scale things that might be relevant. For example, if you were part of the leadership team of a student organization, did you do work towards ensuring your organization reflects the population you were representing/advocating/supporting etc.? Did you actively seek diversity in recruiting new members and/or new directors? Just an example.

Someone who is serious about increasing the diversity of their student body will value these attributes because it is not very effective to simply increase diversity for the sake of being able to say there are X people from underrepresented groups. It is important to cultivate a culture that values diversity and build support infrastructure that allows everyone to thrive, not just be present. So, people from majority/overrepresented populations in their fields can be very valuable in terms of diversity if they will be good allies and advocates.

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1 hour ago, TakeruK said:

Don't do this.

If I was reading a candidate's diversity statement and read what you described, it would seem that you are being dismissive of the real struggles people from under-represented backgrounds actually face. At best, you would seem naive and uninformed, and at worst, it would appear that you are co-opting a space that is not meant for you. To me, this would be like showing up to a campus support group for people struggling with X and telling everyone about how great you are instead of sharing relevant experiences.

I came here to say the same thing. If I was on an adcom and I read a diversity statement about overcoming the "adversity" of being a left-handed person, I would read it as you being dismissive and almost poking fun of struggles of marginalized people, not as you being "quirky." 

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20 hours ago, TakeruK said:

Now hopefully something more useful/helpful. Have you done any work towards increasing diversity in your undergraduate student groups or overall population? Generally, an undergraduate may not have much influence on the admissions process at their school, but there are smaller scale things that might be relevant. For example, if you were part of the leadership team of a student organization, did you do work towards ensuring your organization reflects the population you were representing/advocating/supporting etc.? Did you actively seek diversity in recruiting new members and/or new directors? Just an example.

Thank you so much for your advice! I definitely see how this could be viewed the wrong way now, so I'm glad I ran it through here before even writing a draft.

I've not been in a position where I could really effect that kind of organizational change, but I have spent a fair bit of time tutoring ESL students in writing and reading. Is this the kind of thing that would be appropriate to mention, or would I be better off not including the statement where it's optional?

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21 minutes ago, GoneWilde said:

Thank you so much for your advice! I definitely see how this could be viewed the wrong way now, so I'm glad I ran it through here before even writing a draft.

I've not been in a position where I could really effect that kind of organizational change, but I have spent a fair bit of time tutoring ESL students in writing and reading. Is this the kind of thing that would be appropriate to mention, or would I be better off not including the statement where it's optional?

If you are applying to student affairs programs, I would include a diversity statement even though it is optional.  The field really values diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and it will be a main topic of discussion in your coursework.  The above posters are correct that writing about being left-handed in a right-handed world will not come across well.

In student affairs/higher ed diversity statements, usually people will discuss their experiences with working with traditionally underrepresented or marginalized students in the academy, any insight that the experience has brought them especially if they do not identify as one of those groups, and how DEI relates to their research/professional interests in the field.

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