Yale Math Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

The Yale math department strives to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all members of its community to learn and work together. We acknowledge, welcome, and celebrate our differences, including those related to race, gender, gender identity, nationality, immigration status, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, and socioeconomic status.

Since summer 2020 the department has convened a standing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) committee that meets regularly to discuss, plan, and enact change intended to make our community more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive.

In an effort to better understand the challenges facing our community, the department partnered with the Poorvu Center in 2021 to survey and collect data on the experiences of its members. The responses will inform and guide the development and prioritization of efforts to best support current and future staff, students, and faculty. We have organized these efforts around the following domains:

Faculty hiring

The mathematics department receives a considerable volume of feedback from the Yale mathematics community urging us to focus on diversity in our faculty hiring. Because of the confidential nature of this process, it is hard for us to give many details about it, even though in fact the goal of improving faculty diversity is crucial to us and influences our process at every stage. We emphasize that our efforts to improve diversity in our department are not confined to a given search but span multiple years as we work to build a knowledge base and network of diverse and excellent scholars. We will try here to give a general picture of the specific strategies that we use to further the goal of diversity.

In the initial stages of a mathematics faculty search, members of the department communicate with colleagues and experts at other institutions, within and outside the US, to build a broad, diverse initial pool of excellent candidates. Actually it is more accurate to say that this process is ongoing at all times, allowing the department to maintain an updated picture of the field of candidates. When a specific search is approved, it is advertised and the department also collects applications through Mathjobs, a profession-wide clearinghouse for applications and recommendation letters. This is especially useful when the search includes a junior (tenure-track) component.  In this process we pay particular attention to keeping the pool diverse, knowing that the rest of our search is shaped by the outcome of the first stage. 
Through this process, we gradually begin to learn more about the candidates and to narrow down the pool. We contact some of them informally, learn if they are in fact available, and invite them to visit. Visiting candidates typically give a talk (in recent times on Zoom) and meet some of us individually.
In the last two or three years this approach has been particularly successful and brought to the department a stunning group of mathematicians of the highest level, including two women, bringing the current total number of women in the senior faculty to three (one with a joint appointment in SDS).
At a larger time scale, the search process brings the department into contact with promising young mathematicians from less well-represented groups, many of whom are in demand at all of the top research departments in the world. We are eager to build relationships with these strong candidates, hoping that even if they are not currently available, some of them will be interested in coming to Yale in the next stage of their careers. Thus in the course of any given search we are laying the groundwork for diversifying the next one.

Undergraduate program

Recently, we implemented significant curriculum revisions in the introductory math major sequence. One of the main goals of the redesign was to improve access to the math major for students from diverse mathematical backgrounds and high school preparation. We are now monitoring the new curriculum, and planning adjustments based on feedback from students, instructors, and tutors. 

The department supports many student groups (Student Advisory Council, Dimensions, YUMS, etc) whose missions are myriad, but share the goal of creating a more inclusive community within the department. We commit to providing a faculty advisor for each of these groups who will take an active role in the group’s activities. 
Summer Undergraduate Math Research at Yale (SUMRY) has transformed itself into a national program with the primary goal of engaging a diverse group of students in undergraduate math reserarch. 

Graduate program

The department is commited to creating and supporting a diverse graduate student program. These efforts start with increased outreach, and we now host a yearly webinar for prospective applicants and send posters to over a hundred US institutions including about 15 minority-serving universities and HBCUs. In the past few years this approach has been increasingly successful, yielding incoming graduate student classes with exceptional qualifications and potential, including two women in each of the past three years.

In order to better support the graduate students in the program the department and the DGS took the following steps:

  • advising guidelines were prepared and posted on the graduate program webpage. The guidelines describe the responsibilities of the faculty advisors, students and the DGS, and help the students to navigate the program. 
  • the Graduate student advisory committee (GSAC) has been created. It consists of and is run by students. The DGS meets with the GSAC approximately monthly.
  • the department has organized lunches of graduate students with faculty, students and lecturers.  
  • the department has created the institution of temporary advisors for graduate students who do not yet have a thesis advisor. The purpose of a temporary advisor is to meet with students to check how they are doing, provide advice on classes to take, literature to read, and other faculty and postdocs to talk to.
  • the department is committed to developing and implementing intermediate level graduate courses to provide additional structure and training in the graduate program after qualifying exams. This academic year there are six such courses being offered. 

DEIB Programming

In light of its committement to continued learning and improvement, the department has hosted a number of events with the goal of raising awareness and achieving progress towards a more welcoming and inclusive community.  Highlights of this series include a colloquium by Francis Su on Mathematics for Human Flourishing, a department wide forum on the climate survey results, and a standing reading group centered around DEIB topics.  

For Spring 2023 the department is planning a semester-long DEIB series. This series will be headlined by a plenary colloquium from mathematician and advocate Pamela Harris on Friday April 28. Workshops for instructors led by the Poorvu Center will address inclusivity in teaching and mentoring. Additional events will be announced in the spring.  

Notes from the 2021 climate survey

The 2021 climate survey reveals that the department is a diverse place: we have members at every stage of their mathematical training, from myriad backgrounds and lived experiences, and whose experiences in the department span a wide spectrum. As in any group that exhibits such diversity, the work of creating a cohesive, welcoming, and inclusive community is challenging, but it is important work that we commit ourselves to now and in the future. 

As reflected in the survey, while a majority of respondents feel that the department is welcoming, supportive and respectful, there is room for improvement in each of those areas. A need for increased supportive resources was noted, as was the need for increased efforts in building and sustaining community.  There were strong differences in respondent’s sense of the climate, with those from underrepresented populations feeling less included and supported. Survey responses highlighted the need for a more diverse faculty, with increased interactions among all members of the department and increased awareness of DEIB issues.

The department will be calling upon all members of its community to contribute to the effort of building a more welcoming culture and creating a community that values all aspects of diversity, a process that will unfold over years. We thank everyone for the many contributions already made which have helped create an intellectually vigorous environment, and acknowledge the additional work needed to achieve our goal of creating a community that respects each individual’s background and lived experience. 
The department is committed to continuing its efforts to foster a more inclusive and supportive mathematics community. If you have suggestions in this direction we welcome them via this comment box where anyone can leave an anonymous comment/question/suggestion which will be read and addressed by the DEI committee.
These ideas may cause individuals to think about their own experiences and concerns, including regarding discrimination and harassment. Yale offers a variety of resources that may be helpful in resolving an individual’s concerns by determining an appropriate and supportive course of action. They include the Discrimination and Harassment Resource Coordinators, the Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility (OIEA), and the Title IX Coordinators. These individuals and offices have been charged by the University with receiving and responding to concerns of discrimination and harassment, and will be able to provide support. Please know that our ability to respond to specific individual concerns noted or referenced in an anonymous survey may be very limited. We encourage you to bring any specific concerns to these offices and people, as they will be positioned to provide you with specific resources and support.