The Graduate School appointed Maija Hallsmith as the inaugural assistant director of graduate academic diversity, according to a Feb. 16 news release.
Hallsmith joined the Grad School in 2017 as the program assistant for diversity initiatives. In this role, she worked on graduate student recruitment and retention through programs such as Preview Day and the Graduate Student of Color Orientation, she said.
“One of the goals of this position is to further develop the relationship that the Graduate School has with departments across campus, especially when it comes to working with students from historically underrepresented groups,” Hallsmith said. “It’s going to be helpful that I’ve spent a lot of time recruiting students to all of these departments and planning events like Preview Day.”
Hallsmith will have a greater opportunity to engage with faculty in her new position, according to the news release.
“Ms. Hallsmith was selected for this position because of her history as a strong advocate for the needs of graduate students, her skill in building trusting relationships with students, faculty and administrators and her experience with innovative recruitment and retention strategies,” wrote Alycia Mosley Austin, associate dean of diversity and inclusion for the Graduate School, in an email to The Herald.
“Additionally, she brings the strength of being able to articulate a vision of diversity and inclusion efforts that can be effectively carried out at the individual, program and department levels,” Austin wrote.
According to Hallsmith, her new position will better enable her to focus on issues of diversity, inclusion and equity such as bias training and holistic review of graduate applications.
“I’m really interested in learning more about the theories and ideas … that exist in the world of diversity … equity and inclusion,” Hallsmith said, “and then being able to share those resources with faculty, because I know there’s a need and a want for it.”
Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Sylvia Carey-Butler, who works closely with the Grad School on issues of diversity, noted that she is “looking forward to meeting (Hallsmith) and working with her.”
Among Hallsmith’s responsibilities are developing “data-driven metrics that will allow the Graduate School to effectively assess the impact of academic diversity initiatives, and to share and report its findings with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity,” the news release explained.
Hallsmith will carry out this role within the context of an increasingly diverse graduate student body, she noted. The percentage of graduate students from historically underrepresented groups increased from 10.38% in the 2016-17 academic year to 15.59% in the 2020-21 academic year, according to the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan website.
“One of the nice things that’s been happening in the past four years that I’ve been at Brown has been … the overall number of graduate students of color and (graduate students) from historically underrepresented groups has increased,” Hallsmith said.
“Data collection, in terms of applications or matriculation (or) retention, and how it varies” between different departments is “very important for us to see,” she added.
“We want to be able to keep track of our success,” Hallsmith said. “If there are new goals we want to set, we want to make them realistic and reflective of the changes we’ve already made.”
Hallsmith will fully transition to the new assistant director position once a new diversity initiatives program coordinator is hired, according to Austin.
Neil Mehta is a University News section editor and design chief at The Herald. They study public health and statistics at Brown. Outside the office, you can find Neil baking and playing Tetris.