Recruitment and retention efforts for diversity at Illinois State University

The recruitment and retention programs from ISU have recently seen their highest level of diversity participation ever

By Jamie Kremsreiter, Brea Banks, and Verenice D’Santiago

In the field of psychology, there has been a longstanding concern that there is an underrepresentation of practitioners from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds (Castillo, Curtis, Chappel, & Cunningham, 2011; Rogers & Molina, 2006). This disproportion emerges during the undergraduate and graduate school years and grows, such that as the level of education increases, so too does the underrepresentation of students from ethnically diverse backgrounds (Rogers & Molina, 2006).

To remedy the disparity, there have been intensive efforts at the undergraduate and graduate levels to recruit and retain (i.e., prevent students from abandoning their studies prematurely) students from diverse backgrounds. Many professional psychology organizations (for example, the American Psychological Association [APA] and the National Association of School Psychologists [NASP]) have begun to seek out opportunities to recruit undergraduate and graduate students from diverse backgrounds into the field of psychology. At Illinois State University (ISU), a graduate student-driven organization has taken steps to increase diversity (which includes students from underrepresented ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds, low socioeconomic status and individuals who identify as LGBTQIA) in the field of psychology.

The purpose of the present article is twofold. First, our aim is to share our group’s efforts regarding the issues of diversity in psychology graduate programs. Second, we hope because of our submission, we will be able to cultivate collaborative relationships with other graduate student organizations that have a similar focus.


In the spring of 2011, a group of ISU School Psychology graduate students formed a work group to fulfill a component of the doctoral program’s self-study for re-accreditation through the APA. The work group recognized the unique moment in time: the ISU School Psychology program was the most diverse it had ever been. The focus of the work group was to brainstorm ideas around the recruitment and retention of students from diverse backgrounds in the ISU School Psychology graduate program. After several meetings, the group determined that there should be a continued, student-driven effort to focus on these important issues (Diversity Task Force, 2011).

Ultimately, the group sought recognition as a formal student organization on campus. In April 2011, The Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in School Psychology was born, and the group became formally recognized at ISU as a registered student organization (RSO). By the fall of 2011, the Task Force opened its membership to all ISU graduate students in psychology (which includes specialist and doctoral programs in school psychology, and master’s degree programs in psychology with specializations in clinical-counseling, industrial/organizational, developmental, cognitive and behavioral, and quantitative). The name of the organization was amended to the Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology, and the organization’s action plan and bylaws were updated to reflect this innovation (Diversity Task Force, 2011).

As established in the Diversity Task Force Action Plan (Diversity Task Force, 2011), the organization continues to have two main goals: recruitment of students from diverse backgrounds into the field of psychology and the retention of these students. The organization’s standing membership includes 24 graduate students representing a range of multicultural backgrounds (with over 50 percent of the current members identifying as such) and five sequences of graduate psychology programs. Meetings are held twice per month, and the group has undertaken projects to raise awareness of the organization and its missions. For example, in November 2011, the organization hosted a student-driven open house targeting undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds interested in graduate school in psychology. The Task Force has also made efforts to bring attention to diversity in ISU’s Psychology Department by creating an online presence, hosting cultural dinners and hanging diversity awareness posters. Each semester, the Task Force formally recognizes one psychology faculty member and one graduate student in psychology for their commitment to service and research on diversity. The feature stories of these honorees are prominently posted on the ISU Psychology Department website. To this point, there has been increased recognition and support from the ISU Psychology Department, at large.

To further fulfill its mission of recruitment, The Task Force has also participated in several outreach activities with the aim of informing students from diverse backgrounds about careers in psychology and graduate school. In fact, since its inception less than a year ago, the Task Force has participated in five recruitment visits to colleges and universities and has held several Skype sessions with various cultural organizations at colleges and universities across the nation.

What about those moderators and mediators? Your help is needed!

In an effort to better understand the conditions that moderate and mediate the recruitment and retention of students from diverse backgrounds, the Diversity Task Force is undertaking a research project whose primary aim is to survey current graduate students in psychology in an effort to gain a better understanding of these factors. Using a survey format, the organization will be seeking input from a range of students from as many corners of the globe as possible. We hope this will be a large project and are actively seeking input and collaboration from fellow student organizations that may be interested in embarking upon this journey with us. We are also interested in joining forces with other student-lead organizations in order to expand our recruitment efforts of students from diverse backgrounds into the field of psychology. If you or your student organization would be interested in collaborating with us, please contact us via email. Feel free to visit our Facebook page and our page on ISU’s Psychology Department website.


Castillo, J.M., Curtis, M.J., Chappel, A., Cunningham, J. (2011, February). School Psychology Membership Retrieved from

Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology (2011, September 9). Illinois State University Psychology Graduate Programs Student Diversity Task Force [PDF document]. Retrieved from

Rogers, M.R., & Molina, L.E. (2006). Rogers, M.R. (2006). Exemplary Multicultural Training in School Psychology Programs. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 12, 115-133.

About the authors

Jamie Kremsreiter is a fourth-year graduate pursuing a doctoral degree in school psychology at Illinois State University (ISU). Jamie is the current secretary of the Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology at ISU.

Brea Banks is a second-year student pursuing a doctoral degree in school psychology at Illinois State University. Brea is the current president of the Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology at ISU.

Verenice D’Santiago is a third-year graduate pursuing a doctoral degree in school psychology at Illinois State University. Verenice is the current vice president of the Diversity Task Force of Graduate Students in Psychology at ISU.