Princeton University Intensifies Anti-Racism Efforts With ‘Inclusive Leadership Learning Cohort’


33 graduate students at Princeton University have finished the Inclusive Leadership Learning Cohort (ILLC), a series that intends to equip graduate students with inclusive leadership skills as a way to combat systemic racism.

The initiative has been co-established and completed by 33 Princeton graduate students in fall 2020, in partnership with teams from GradFUTURES Professional Development and Access, Diversity and Inclusion. The latter is a campus-wide professional development initiative, which intends to empower students and graduates with professional competencies and connections that they need in order to chart their future with clarity and confidence, informs.

In an article by Ina Simova, a researcher and writer at Princeton University published on the Princeton University’s site, the same notes that the initiative is part of the University’s campaign to address structural inequality and racism in America, including Princeton University as well.

According to Simova, the graduate cohort relies on the understanding that local action and individual dedication are essential for a significant and lasting change.

“We partnered to design this program because we see inclusive leadership training as critical for graduate students’ individual leadership development and essential for building a collective movement to support structural change,” director of professional development for the Graduate School, Eva Kabu, said.

The ILLC is designed as a co-curricular certification where participants are required to submit reflections on topics tackled in each workshop and an action plan on how to implement the plan after the series. Out of 60 graduate students participating, 33 have completed the program.

As an action-oriented program, ILLC supports students as they create a real and targeted strategy to implement against racism and inequality. At first, ILLC presented ten workshops which included strategies to identify and confront non-intentional bias, grant writing, and representation of people of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as the representation of the relationship between diversity and innovation.

“What made the ILLC special was the combined emphasis on self-reflection and the application of strategies and practices that our graduate students were able to immediately implement in their personal, professional, and scholarly endeavors,” the Graduate School’s associate dean, Renita Miller, commented.

While presenting the first action plans, students initially included changes they wanted to make in their departments. These action plans featured solutions such as raising awareness for inclusivity and promoting equity-minded teaching, among other alternatives.

Sharing how their experiences relate to the discussed topics, Laura Bustamante, a Ph.D. candidate, said that discussing “covering” and “culture-add” is what she resonated most with throughout the program.

“Learning that 60 percent of people are covering marginalized parts of their identity was really powerful and inspired me to think of small ways to ‘uncover’ myself to make space for my research group to do the same,” Bustamante explained.

She also went on to add that a lot of hiring conversations are about culture fit; therefore, people can relate more to those who are like them; that’s why knowing this can help people work more carefully when building diverse teams.

The ILLC program comes following the investigation that took place at the Department of Education at Princeton University, where the latter was accused of racial discrimination in September 2020. The investigation was exterminated last month.

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