Data and Analysis: Key Findings

Student Diversity

One of our priority areas is achieving a diverse, excellent graduate student community. We highlight examples of historical and current Rackham enrollment data in the figures and tables below. The two figures below summarize Ph.D. enrollments from 2005-2015 (based on fall term enrollment records). The data in the first figure below reflect relatively flat trends for women and international students, and a small increase in students from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds (URM).

Total Enrolled Ph.D. Students 2005-2015

Figure 1: Total Enrolled Ph.D. Students 2005-2015
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total 4455 4425 4513 4583 4715 5281 5244 5202 5153 5085 5107
Female 1963 1964 1963 2011 2091 2332 2303 2235 2198 2141 2183
International 1627 1579 1578 1603 1628 1771 1748 1712 1668 1659 1732
URM* 455 453 424 405 418 495 508 519 538 564 579

*“Underrepresented minorities” (URM) category: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians/Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (excluding Asian Americans), and multi-racial students identifying at least one of previously listed URM categories.

…Registration policy for Ph.D. students changed effective Fall 2010, resulting in increase of 480 enrolled Rackham candidates, who under prior policy would have been unregistered while still being active students in good standing.

The second figure below includes data for racial/ethnic groups within domestic students, with patterns indicating an overall flat trend across groups. However, it is noteworthy (as indicated by italicized text in the table) that disaggregating by racial/ethnic group reveals that the seeming flat/non-changing pattern among URM students is a function of increases in Hispanic/Latino/a and decreases in African American student enrollments. As noted in both figures, another possible contributing factor to enrollment patterns is the 2010 change in federal reporting requirements for race/ethnicity, whereby anyone who responded that she/he was of Hispanic origin was considered Hispanic, regardless of responses to the question on race. Enrollments of other URM groups (e.g., Native American) remain low.


The upward trend across all groups in the 2010-2011 period reflects increased enrollments due to the implementation of Rackham’s Continuous Enrollment policy.

Enrolled Domestic Ph.D. Students 2005-2015

Figure 2: Enrolled Domestic Ph.D. Students 2005-2015
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total 2783 2809 2861 2901 3087 3510 3496 3490 3485 3426 3375
African American 235 237 217 210 204 182 194 186 182 178 183
Asian American 344 352 322 324 364 360 363 354 352 335 315
Native American 24 21 19 16 20 10 11 12 9 12 13
Hispanic American 196 195 188 179 194 256 253 269 288 317 327
White American 1984 2004 2115 2172 2250 2540 2521 2506 2439 2330 2254
Pacific Islander* 1 1 2 3 3 3
2 or More Races* 108 109 104 119 125 132

* In 2010 a new taxonomy for reporting race/ethnicity was implemented to comply with IPEDS federal reporting requirements. This report has been augmented to accommodate this change in taxonomy by including “Pacific Islander” and “Two or More Races.” “Two or More Races” refers to two or more non-Hispanic races.

…Registration policy for Ph.D. students changed effective Fall 2010, resulting in increase in 480 enrolled Rackham candidates, who under prior policy would have been unregistered while still being active students in good standing.

The table below summarizes total enrollments and most recent (FY2015) incoming cohort enrollments for Rackham’s master’s and Ph.D. programs, along a number of demographic background factors.

Table 1: Snapshot of Rackham Student Enrollments
Master’s Total Master’s FY2015 Cohort Ph.D. Total Ph.D. FY2015 Cohort
Enrollment Number 3128 1646 5179 1033
Domestic Women 29% 30% 29% 29%
Domestic Men 27% 30% 27% 34%
International Women 16% 16% 16% 13%
International Men 27% 25% 27% 24%
URM* 14% 13% 17% 19%
Pell Grant* 24% 23% 24% 28%
First Gen 4-Year College Grad* 15% 16% 15% 22%
First Gen U.S. Citizen 10% 9% 10% 10%

*URM, Pell Grant, and First Gen 4-Year College Grad percentages are based on United States or Permanent Resident (Domestic) students

The patterns indicate an overall higher level of diversity with regard to demographic background for doctoral students in Rackham programs, relative to Rackham master’s students. In addition, our domestic student population is more gender-balanced than our international student population, in which men are more represented. Incoming cohort data (FY2015) indicate recent increases in URM students recruited into our doctoral programs, students who reported receiving Pell grants during their undergraduate period (one indicator of socioeconomic background), and first generation 4-year college students.


In these above figures and tables, we provide an overall Rackham summary, but we do and will continue to examine these trends across and within our disciplinary divisions (1-Biological & Biomedical Sciences, 2-Physical Sciences & Engineering, 3-Social Sciences, and 4-Humanities & Arts), schools/colleges, and individual graduate programs. Those analyses indicate significant variation in historical and current enrollments across Rackham programs and disciplinary divisions, as well as across schools/colleges with regard to the noted student diversity background indicators.

Appendix C includes our newly developed A3 Diversity indicators form, which reflects this increased level of disaggregation of student enrollment data as well as student degree completion data. We plan to provide individual graduate programs and schools/colleges with these data on a regular basis (in program review, in annual block grant letters) in order to support their DE&I efforts and to support our respective and collaborative efforts to enhance DE&I. In addition, we are emphasizing to graduate programs that an important factor in Rackham’s decisions about funding and resources (e.g., block grants, fellowships, diversity grants) is programs’ active efforts around enhancing diversity and excellence in their program communities.

Students’ Climate Experiences

Community Input

As a central part of our DE&I planning process, we gathered community input from students around their experiences related to DE&I through several forum events. As an example, in our December 2015 Rackham DE&I Student Forum (attended by 100 graduate students across Rackham programs, disciplines, and schools/colleges), students highlighted DE&I challenges related to:

  • Lack of clarity and inclusion around DE&I planning process and efforts (e.g., concerns about not knowing the status of the process in their academic programs and/or colleges; uncertainty about the best ways to inquire and get involved)
  • Student burden (e.g., inappropriately being asked to “do the diversity work” around recruitment, curriculum, and community building that programs and faculty should value and be accountable for)
  • Campus climate (e.g., regular experiences of microaggressions, discrimination, and incivility; in academic and social settings; from student peers, faculty, and staff)
  • Faculty issues (e.g., faculty lack of cultural understanding that manifests in mentoring and in the classroom; faculty low expectations or stereotype-based treatment of women, ethnic/racial minority students, first generation students, international students; faculty challenges in effectively engaging diversity and inclusion in the classroom)

Students also offered short-term and long-term solutions around DE&I challenges, focused on:

  • Ways to increase student clarity and inclusion in the DE&I planning process
  • Leveraging Rackham’s historical and current role as a DE&I leader in planning and supporting progress in other schools/colleges/units
    • Rackham serving as a resource for baseline data, climate assessment information for graduate students, defining clear and measureable success metrics for programs to use
  • Development of practices to enhance DE&I
    • “Diversity skills” training for faculty and students
    • Accountability, incentives, and penalties for DE&I efforts and outcomes
    • Developing more ways to bring DE&I programming to departments
    • Enhancing efforts to connect students across graduate programs
    • Communications: developing more effective DE&I information dissemination strategies, including online resources

For more detail on these themes, visit Rackham’s website.

In addition, we planned and held Rackham DE&I discussions and forums for Rackham Faculty Allies for Diversity (October 2015 and February 2016), as well as for faculty and staff across Rackham programs (February and March 2016). In these meetings, we shared student-reported challenges and solutions with faculty and staff. In addition, faculty and staff offered their own thoughts and perceptions around the DE&I challenges most salient in their program communities, as well as ideas for addressing those challenges. Some key themes from these meetings centered around:

  • Desire to learn and share information about “best practices” in recruitment; e.g., effective models of recruitment visitation events, developing productive relationships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)
  • Need for admissions workshop that addresses and provides accurate information about the legal context/Proposition 2 and helps faculty consider admissions approaches that are effective and legally compliant, such as holistic admissions approaches;
    • Rackham offers such a workshop, which have been increasingly well-attended in the past few years. However, the discussions demonstrated need for raising awareness about such Rackham programming.
Mentoring and Teaching
  • Desire to learn strategies for engaging faculty colleagues around mentoring, especially for those that do not already see the value in investing in their mentoring relationships and skills development
  • Desire for strategies and policies that can help programs and program leadership to address known challenging mentors and negative mentoring situations
  • Need for more faculty supports for addressing diversity and inclusion in the classroom

Alignment with Rackham Data

Along with our engagement and community input events and activities for the DE&I planning process, Rackham has a number of existing mechanisms for collecting on a regular and systematic basis information from a representative and broader range of students about their program climate experiences, including those related to DE&I. We highlight examples of data analyses that align with and complement themes from other community input events and activities.

Rackham Program Review

Below is a summary table of student responses to selected DE&I-relevant questions from student surveys administered as a part of the Rackham Program Review (for all Rackham programs reviewed in the years 2012-2015). Our program review survey asks students about a range of program experiences including climate, sense of belonging, and mentoring, among other areas. The surveys also include open-ended questions that allow students to elaborate on and describe their program experiences. We collect these data from each of our graduate programs (current student surveys of master’s and Ph.D. students and exit surveys of Ph.D. students) on a regular review cycle (currently every 4 years). As such, we do and will continue to be able to provide programs with information about their specific students’ experiences of their program, as well as changes/improvements in students’ experiences over time. Data on student experiences and outcomes – including those related to DE&I – are a key part of how Rackham evaluates the quality of its graduate programs. Furthermore, such data can support Rackham’s and programs’ assessment of progress/success on efforts related to their DE&I goals.

Examples of Rackham Program Review Survey Questions
Table 2: Department Climate, Scale: Disagree (1) to Agree (4)[1]
Sense of Community Master’s Mean Master’s SD Ph.D. Mean Ph.D. SD
There is a sense of community among students 3.37 .67 3.13 .89
The climate encourages the participation of all students 3.37 .81 3.23 .88
Students in my program are treated with respect by faculty 3.63 .63 3.46 .75
How much do you feel you belong in your program? 3.32 .78 3.28 .80
Table 3: Sensitivity to Diversity
“Faculty members in my program are sensitive to the experiences and/or needs of:” Master’s Mean Master’s SD Master’s Mean Master’s SD
Female graduate students 3.31 .92 3.32 .86
Graduate students of color 3.27 .94 3.24 .90
International graduate students 3.27 .93 3.29 .87
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer graduate students 3.26 .94 3.28 .87
Graduate students with disabilities 3.30 .92 3.24 .88
Graduate students who are parents 3.30 .91 3.32 .85
Graduate students who are older than the traditional age for students in my program 3.35 .89 3.35 .85

While the table provides a summary picture of student responses across Rackham programs here, our review process focuses on student responses at the individual program level. Our analyses of historical and current trends in those data indicate substantial variation in students’ reported climate and mentoring experiences across individual graduate programs, Rackham disciplinary divisions, as well as schools and colleges. Our goal is to lead, work with, encourage, and incentivize graduate programs and schools/colleges in taking actions to ensure that all students –regardless of their program – experience positive program climates and supportive scholarly/academic communities.

Rackham Research

In addition to program review data, we recently did a more focused examination of students’ experiences of climate and community in their academic programs, as a part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project (Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, AGEP). In the winter term of 2015 (wave 1), we sampled all URM students in NSF-eligible fields (social sciences, some humanistic social sciences, education, natural sciences, and engineering programs), as well as a random stratified sample of non-URM domestic students from the same programs (over 70% response rate).[2] In winter 2016 (February-March), we conducted a wave 2 follow-up survey with the wave 1 sample and also surveyed new first year students from the same academic programs (also with over 70% response rate). Below, we highlight a few of the key themes from preliminary analyses of the wave 1 (2015) data:

Faculty Mentoring

With regard to access to mentoring:

  • URM students (across disciplinary fields) were more likely to report having to seek a faculty mentor outside of their department/program than were non-URM students.
  • The majority of URM students did not have a mentor of their racial/ethnic background, either within or outside of their department. This was especially true for URM students in STEM fields.

Department/Program Climate

URM students reported more negative climate experiences overall, compared to non-URM students with regard to:

  • Experiences of microaggressions or incivilities in their academic program communities (e.g., being ignored, dismissed, treated rudely, treated as if they were unintelligent, etc.)
  • Experiences of discrimination due to their race/ethnicity and due to their economic or social class background
  • Perceptions of a less equitable racial climate (especially among students in social science fields)
  • Perceptions of a less equitable gender climate

Implications for Academic Engagement and Career Interests

  • Climate experiences mattered to how students engaged with their academic program community for URM and Non-URM students, but in different ways:
  • Among URM students (accounting for gender, field, and year in program), experiencing more microaggressions and experiencing an inequitable racial climate within their department/program related to: less trust in faculty, lower sense of belonging within their department, lower identification with their discipline, and lower overall satisfaction with their graduate experiences.
  • Among Non-URM students, microaggressions and experiencing an inequitable racial climate related to decreased trust in faculty, but these experiences were unrelated to their sense of belonging, discipline identification, and program satisfaction.
  • Students’ climate experiences and subsequent academic engagement predicted students’ reported interest (and disinterest) in pursuing faculty careers in academia, research careers in university settings, and other research-related careers.

We also included within this year’s survey follow-up (2016 wave 2 survey), specific open-ended questions related to students’ DE&I experiences, in order to further inform our DE&I planning. Students’ comments reflected diverse experiences, in ways that aligned with the themes from our community forum events, as well as divergent perspectives. Below we highlight some examples:

Lack of Inclusion

  • “Definitions of diversity (when even discussed) mostly focus on Black/White issues but rarely address Asian students, International Students, class issues, disability, etc.”
  • “As a white student, I don’t feel like all people feel it is appropriate for me to engage in conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion in my department. For this reason, I have taken a backseat in these discussions, choosing only to listen.”
  • “Some issues regarding diversity and inclusion that affect me . . . the inability to see myself represented more. From the doctoral students coming for interviews to the visiting faculty from outside universities, I do not feel as though my race and ethnic background are highly represented or the efforts to recruit more individuals like me are a high priority.”

Student Burden

  • “My department is not very diverse or engaged in open conversations about how to improve the climate and increase accessibility. Sometimes I feel guilty about being a party to a space that is exclusive and it often feels like the burden of promoting improvements falls to the graduate students.”
  • “Burden of being a student of color and overly involved in organizations advocating for this body of students. It is hard because it feels like you are not getting your work done and I often have to deal with the guilty feelings of not being able to get everything I want done. Additionally, as I am doing this advocacy work, my White colleagues are just focused on the research tasks, networking, and making career moves that will help them to advance faster than I will. At least that is what I think. I don’t always see the direct benefit of the work that I do as a scholar activist because I know that it goes to benefit those who will come after me. But sometimes I struggle to know what is going to sustain me now, when I often feel bitter and tired about the work that I am doing despite knowing that it is really important.”

Campus Climate

  • “I relied entirely on my program’s faculty when I came in, and had they not been able to provide all the support that they did, I think that the general campus climate would have been enough to push me out. I often hear derogatory comments made about students of my racial background, and have previously experienced some. Moreover, I don’t think that the university is nearly as inclusive as it claims to be, and I take issue with the way race relations are handled.”
  • “Gender and SES affect inclusion at University of Michigan. I have witnessed female faculty and graduate students treated in a condescending/demeaning manner from male faculty members. This type of behavior discourages me from pursuing a career in academia. I most likely will seek employment in industry.”

Faculty Issues

  • “I feel that professors will often give preferential, unconscious treatment to white students. This is particularly noticeable when I [a Black male] am the only person of color . . . and 4 different professors never make eye contact with me and teach to the side of the room where I am not located.”
  • “I often hear derogatory statements made by students and professors alike regarding the female faculty in my department because their work tends to be more about sociological/psychological applications…rather than advances in algorithms or systems. I also see their students being treated as inferior because of preconceptions about their advisor.”
  • “I think that I have a very uniquely supportive experience given my faculty mentors, so I don’t have any issues around diversity, equity, or inclusion. However, I know this is not true for all students.”

Classroom Issues

  • “As a Graduate Student Instructor most of my students have been Americans (of “White” European descent) from more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds. These students tend to approach such a class (with a person such as myself in a position of authority) very laxed while also displaying an attitude to me. . . .I believe that these student’s [sic] are not used to my presence because my department (and possibly others) rarely [have] doctoral students [from my international and SES background].”

Taken together, these preliminary analyses suggest that students’ experiences of an inclusive and equitable climate have important implications for the degree and quality of their engagement in their programs and disciplines, as well as implications for supporting the “pipeline” of talented students into careers (in academia and out of academia) that utilize their research and disciplinary training.

As we move forward in our strategic plan development in the coming summer and academic year, we will do more intensive, or “deeper dive” analyses into Rackham program review surveys, the wave 1 and wave 2 longitudinal data from the NSF-AGEP project, coding of open-ended survey questions from Rackham’s program review and NSF-AGEP surveys (e.g., around sense of belonging, climate experiences, program supports), as well as coding and analyses of rich qualitative data from sets of semi-structured interviews we conducted with subsamples of survey respondents. The DE&I unit lead developed a proposal for funding for conducting these analyses, including funds to support graduate student involvement in working with us to analyze and interpret data findings. We submitted this proposal to the Provost’s Office, and the proposal was approved in winter 2016. Rackham Dean Fierke also has agreed to contribute funding toward graduate student involvement in these analysis activities.

Inventorying Rackham’s DE&I Activities

As a part of our planning, data gathering, and data analysis process, we reviewed Rackham’s current DE&I activities, programs, resources, and policies. The Rackham Graduate School has developed and implemented an on-going set of programs and initiatives that focus on enhancing diversity in our student body (recruitment) as well as creating inclusive, high quality academic environments, including effective mentoring and positive diversity climates, that support academic progress, retention, and completion for, among others, students from historically underrepresented groups. These initiatives involve collaboration across disciplines, departments, and colleges at U-M as well as cross-institutional collaboration to advance our transformative goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rackham provides more than 30 activities or programs that enhance diversity at U-M, along with a range of policies designed to support recruitment and success of diverse student community.

In Appendix A, we provide the latest version of our DE&I Inventory Grid, our initial attempt to catalog and analyze our current DE&I activities with regard to how they fit into our key priority/mission areas. The grid is organized in two ways: (1) by units/entities responsible for implementation; and (2) by “target units/groups” of activities (e.g., efforts/services provided directly to individual students or faculty members, activities that involve working at academic program/leadership level, etc.). Note: all activities are intended to serve the full population of Rackham students, including being attentive to diversity within our student population (around race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, parental status, among other areas). We also note that some activities that are available to all students but that may be uniquely relevant to or disproportionately used by students of particular demographic groups (e.g., emergency funding). We will continue to use this grid inventory to help guide our organization, development, as well as our evaluation of our DE&I activities.

Key Examples

In the table below, we also include detailed summary of a few of Rackham’s key DE&I activities, initiatives, and support structures. (The activities are also outlined in Appendix D). These are efforts that already have shown promise and/or have had positive impacts on DE&I in graduate education (based on program and student-reported data, participation and evaluation outcomes, and other input from students, staff, and faculty). As such, they represent activities and/or models in which we plan to continue to invest and expand in order to increase our impact. These programs and activities include:

  • Rackham Merit Fellowship Program
  • Summer Programs for Recruitment
    • Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP)
    • Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program (MICHHERS)
    • Creating Connections Consortium (C3)
  • Building Bridges to the Doctorate Program
  • Rackham Admissions for Diversity and Excellence Workshop
  • Rackham “Circle of Recruitment” Workshop
  • Rackham Program Review
  • Interdisciplinary Learning Communities models (such as the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, AGEP)
  • Mentoring Others Results in Excellence (MORE) Committee
  • Rackham Faculty Allies for Diversity Program
  • Rackham Diversity Grants Program
  • Graduate Student Success Office (various programming)

[1] The information is from Rackham programs reviewed in 2012-2015. The same series of questions are also asked about diversity sensitivity among staff and other graduate students in students’ programs.

[2] Of the 400 URM students surveyed, 293 participated (73.3% response rate). Of the 451 Non-URM students surveyed, 256 participated (71.4% response rate). Of respondents, 27.5% were in Biological and Health Sciences, 34.0% in Physical Sciences and Engineering, and 38.5% in Social Sciences. At the time of study, 46.8% of the respondents are pre-candidates and 53.2% are candidates. Women were 51.2% of the sample. Of the survey respondents, 26.2% were Hispanic, 43.3% White, 14.6% African-American, 5.0% Asian-American, 1.5% American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.2% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 6.7% were non-Hispanic and belonged to two or more races. These categories conform to federal rules for the reporting of race and ethnicity data by higher education institutions.