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Chelsie Burchett


Leslie Vernon-Dunnigan


2024 Graduate Student Committee Themes and Initiatives:
The Importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
—and How Accessibility and Retention Are Often Left Out

Chelsie Burchett, Graduate Student, Social and Health Psychology,
Stony Brook University

Leslie Vernon-Dunnigan, Graduate Student,
California State University, Sacramento

The recent 2023 Supreme Court decision to overrule the landmark affirmative action precedent is exemplary of why research and policy around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is so important. Now, more than ever, there is a profound need for empirically sound researchers to bring diverse thought and experience to the classroom and to policy. The Graduate Student Committee (GSC), therefore plans to center its efforts around DEI initiatives, including elucidating why DEI remains necessary, and why accessibility and retention are often forgotten in discussions to make spaces more equitable.

Chair-elect, Leslie Vernon-Dunnigan, plans to host a Spring webinar that explores how racial tensions in the US have led to state bans on antiracist education and reinforced instruction that supports white supremacy within the US (Wilson & Brezicha, 2023). Previous research has shown that understanding how historical discrimination connects to current inequality is related to increased support of antiracist public policy, suggesting that critical historical education is one of the first steps to dismantling systems of oppression (Coleman et al., 2019). This webinar will cover how bans on critical race theory in education should concern anyone interested in social justice and equity within society.

Chair, Chelsie O. Burchett, plans to focus on the ways in which DEI can be improved so that it is truly equitable. The literature and academia as a whole have made a concerted effort to emphasize the importance of DEI across various fields, disciplines, and ranks (Marshall et al., 2023). DEI initiatives are valuable as they strive to create environments where individuals from different marginalized identities feel valued, respected, and represented. However, in the pursuit of DEI, the crucial elements of accessibility and retention are sometimes overlooked. Ensuring accessibility means removing barriers that may impede individuals from diverse backgrounds from fully participating and thriving in academic or professional settings (Mullin et al., 2021; Rosenkranz et al., 2021). This involves addressing physical, digital, and systemic obstacles that may disproportionately affect certain groups (Crabtree et al., 2023; Sarabipour, 2020).

Retention is equally critical, as it focuses on creating an environment where individuals, once welcomed, are supported and encouraged to stay, advance and thrive. This requires ongoing efforts to dismantle biases, provide mentorship opportunities, and establish inclusive policies that promote fair treatment and career progression for everyone (Murray et al., 2022). Addressing aspects like the sense of belonging and well-being for marginalized individuals can help alleviate adverse outcomes that contribute to their low retention rates.

The goal of this year’s GSC is to highlight how the integration of accessibility and retention into DEI initiatives will enable institutions to build more sustainable and inclusive communities. With topics such as, “who’s represented in publishing?”, “invisible disabilities in academia and beyond”, and “making equity training more equitable”, the GSC is taking a holistic approach to acknowledge that true diversity goes beyond recruitment numbers; it emphasizes creating an environment where everyone, regardless of background, can flourish and contribute meaningfully to the collective success of the academic or professional community.


Coleman, J. A., Ingram, K. M., & Sheerin, C. M. (2019). Racial differences in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among African American and Caucasian male veterans. Traumatology, 25(4), 297.

Coleman, B. R., Bonam, C. M., & Yantis, C. (2019). "I thought ghettos just happened”: White Americans’ responses to learning about place-based critical history. In S. Mukherjee & P. S. Salter (Eds.), History and collective memory from the margins: A global perspective (pp. 207–228). Nova Science Publishers New York, NY.

Crabtree, A., Neikirk, K., Marshall, A., Barongan, T., Beasley, H. K., Lopez, E. G., Stephens, D., Murray, S., Spencer, E. C., Martinez, D., Vang, C., Jenkins, F., Damo, S., & Vue, Z. (2023). Strategies for change: thriving as an individual with a disabilty in STEMM. Pathogens and disease, 81, ftac045.

Marshall, A. G., Vue, Z., Beasley, H. K., Neikirk, K., Stephens, D., Wanjalla, C. N., Damo, S. M., Trejo, J., Rodriguez-Aliaga, P., Headley, C. A., Shuler, H., Liu, K., Smith, N., Garza-Lopez, E., Barongan, T., Scudese, E., Spencer, E., Heemstra, J., Vazquez, A. D., Murray, S. A., … Hinton, A., Jr (2023). Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Laboratory: Strategies to Enhance Inclusive Laboratory Culture. Molecular cell, 83(21), 3766–3772.

Mullin AE, Coe IR, Gooden EA, Tunde-Byass M, Wiley RE. Inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility: From organizational responsibility to leadership competency. Healthcare Management Forum. 2021;34(6):311-315. doi:10.1177/08404704211038232

Murray, S. A., Shuler, H., Spencer, E. C., & Hinton, A., Jr (2022). Mentoring future science leaders to thrive. Trends in pharmacological sciences, 43(6), 457–460.

Rosenkranz, K. M., Arora, T. K., Termuhlen, P. M., Stain, S. C., Misra, S., Dent, D., & Nfonsam, V. (2021). Diversity, equity and inclusion in medicine: why it matters and how do we achieve it?. Journal of surgical education, 78(4), 1058-1065.

Sarabipour, S. Research Culture: Virtual conferences raise standards for accessibility and interactions. (2020). eLife 9:e62668.

Wilson, A., & Brezicha, K. F. (2023). Good citizenship and the “True and Inspiring Story of America”: A critical policy analysis of the South Dakota civics and history initiative. Peabody Journal of Education, 1–16.

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