Diversity at GSE

Penn GSE has long been committed to preparing students to live, work, and become leaders in a world marked by sweeping demographic change and interconnectedness.

Diversity @ Penn GSE:
By the Numbers

2018 Incoming Ph.D. Cohort

People of color


African American


Asian/Pacific Islander








Standing Faculty

People of color




Full-time Associated Faculty and Academic Support Staff

People of color





People of color




Diversity at the Penn Graduate School of Education

Penn GSE has long been committed to preparing its students to live, work, and become leaders in a world marked by sweeping demographic change and interconnectedness. Our students, faculty, and staff come from diverse backgrounds, and the diversity of the school is intentionally fostered by Penn GSE’s policies and practices.

But there is always much more to do.

Over the last few years, we have engaged in ongoing learning and dialogue about difference, as well as our shared interest in using education to create opportunity. As part of your orientation, we invite you to learn about some of the work that has been done to foster understanding and a climate of inclusion and respect – and ask that you help us continue to build on these efforts. Highlights include:

REACHING FOR MORE FACULTY DIVERSITY: The GSE Action Plan for Faculty Diversity has been considered a model for the University of Pennsylvania campus at large. The plan’s purpose is to build on the school’s successful efforts to further diversify faculty by improving the faculty search process and, when appropriate, actively targeting talented faculty with diverse experiences. Currently 27% of GSE faculty are people of color, with 14% coming from under-represented groups. Dr. Jessie Harper (Assistant Dean of Faculty Affairs and Diversity), along with Professor Howard Stevenson (GSE’s Diversity Search Advisor and a national expert on issues of race and inclusion), lead this effort within the search process, working closely with search committees to ensure that they conduct the most inclusive search possible. 

MAINTAINING A DIVERSE STUDENT PIPELINE: Penn GSE is proud of its diverse student population. For example, last year’s class was 60% people of color, with 25% from under-represented groups, and we expect our under-represented student percentage to rise this year. Penn GSE continues to enact a number of successful efforts to create a broader pipeline of students.

FOSTERING DIALOGUE AND ACCOUNTABILITY: The Dean and other senior faculty have also worked to foster a collegial and intellectually stimulating environment for faculty and staff. For the past few years, faculty and staff have engaged in a series of dialogues on issues of race and inclusion. Further, Dean Grossman appointed a faculty/staff/student task force on race and diversity in the fall of 2016. Last year, Dean Grossman converted the task force into the standing Committee on Race, Equity, and Inclusion.

The Committee on Race, Equity, and Inclusion has focused its work on addressing school climate, creating a center that brings together students interested in issues of race and equity, and strengthening policies and procedures for dealing with sexual harassment and racial bias. Last March, Penn GSE held an open forum for students, faculty, and staff to learn about the committee’s work and to respond to their recommendations and suggestions in both areas. Revised procedures around sexual harassment reporting can be found at www.gse.upenn.edu/policies/equalopportunity.

Staff and faculty training around sexual harassment, sexual violence reporting, and bias began last year and will be an ongoing effort. Additionally, key staff and faculty are receiving more in-depth instruction from Penn Violence Prevention to ensure that our community members have multiple avenues if they should need assistance. This upcoming academic year we will be requiring all incoming students to view a module and give feedback on how Penn handles sexual violence and harassment issues. We will be facilitating research-based anti-sexual harassment role-play training for faculty.

Additionally, we are deeply committed to supporting any members of our community who have witnessed or have been the targets of bias-related incidents, particularly racial bias. To that end, we will be developing bias reporting procedures and resources for any members of our community who have experienced a discriminatory or hurtful act, and will also assist them to identify campus and school resources to help them understand their options. Resources can be found at www.gse.upenn.edu/policies/equalopportunity under Formal Complaints and Reporting Offices. An online Bias Incident Reporting Form is available online at https://diversity.upenn.edu/diversity-at-penn/forms. A number of additional events and gatherings will be planned throughout the year around any number of themes aimed at promoting understanding – more details to come!

Penn GSE’s Office for Student Affairs has been working closely with campus partners, faculty, staff, and student leadership to promote a culturally inclusive community. Some initiatives that have been implemented over the years are regular programming about racial literacy, building foundational knowledge for international students, and incorporating diversity and inclusion information into orientation. This year, Student Affairs plans to provide more spaces for students to discuss issues relevant to them, their education, and their efforts to educate others. You can find more information on the Events calendar on the Penn GSE website.

Our Visiting Faculty Scholars of Color series celebrated its 10th anniversary last spring. The series invites renowned and up-and-coming scholars of color from all over the country to give lectures and share their research with faculty, staff, and students at Penn GSE. These talks are followed up with a lunch and conversation between students and the speaker about the speaker’s work. The 2018–2019 scholars will be announced later this year – more information can be found at https://diversity.gse.upenn.edu/intellectual-exchange/vfsoc.

PUTTING RESEARCH TO WORK: Penn GSE has several race- and diversity-focused centers, such as the Racial Empowerment Collaborative and the upcoming launch of a new center focused on race and inclusion in education.

GSE students, faculty, and staff continue to step up to the challenge of leadership, question the assumptions of the past, and raise our voices as we move forward as a school. We welcome all voices. As you begin the school year, we’d like to underscore that this is a place for fostering learning across differences, which requires a listening and respectful stance.

Our commonalities, especially our shared belief in the importance of education, are what bring us together. Our differences – cultural, racial, gender, and beyond – spark challenges and conversation that make us a better community and a better place of learning.  We welcome you to this ongoing conversation and look forward to listening to and learning from your perspectives.