An increasing number of institutions are asking for a diversity statement (either separate or within the teaching/research statements) as part of the package. If they do (as Carnegie Mellon does), assume they are doing it for the right reasons and write as such. Stay away from clichés and generalizations; write instead about your personal commitment to an inclusive environment where every student can achieve his or her full potential. See an excellent article in Inside Higher Ed for more tips and pointers.
Remember, we are educators; what we do and say carries weight and as such, we have a responsibility to strive towards creating an environment free of bias and harassment. We have a responsibility of thinking of each and every one of our students as individuals who deserve the best we can offer (and then even better). Take this responsibility to heart.
Vision for an inclusive community
As for the other two statements, start with a general vision of what you believe when it comes to diversity and inclusion. If you have a personal story to share that has shaped your thinking, this is the place to do it.
What you plan on doing
This is an opportunity for you to give more specific examples of what you plan on doing to promote and enhance the atmosphere of inclusion at the institution; it is also an excellent opportunity to comment on the existing activities in that institution and how you will contribute to expanding them and creating new ones. If you have not grown up in the US, learn about the issues surrounding the discourse on gender, race, LGBTQ rights, people with disabilities, social class, first-generation college students. Think about how this differs from the environment you grew up in and what you can do to create an inclusive environment for all.
What you have done
Talk about programs you have been involved in within your current institution or outside; describe what you have done specifically and what you have learned through working with underrepresented minority students, for example. Share personal experiences if you have them; for example, whether you are an underrepresented minority applicant or not, you may comment on how certain biased encounters shaped your thinking and response to the problem. You can talk about obstacles you had to overcome and what that means to you as an educator. You can also comment on how lucky you have been if this is the case. If you do not have personal experiences to share, cite research and statistics to support your statements (both here and earlier in the statement).
- Q: If there is no specific mention of the diversity statement, should I still submit it?
A: It is a good idea to put something about your thoughts on inclusive community in the teaching statement given the diverse makeup of the student body. You can weave it in with your narrative, you can include it in the mentoring section, or you can have a separate section/paragraph with your views on it.
(more to come)