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The Graduate School

G-1 Communications Building
Box 353770
Seattle, Washington 98195-3770

Phone: 206.543.5900
Fax: 206.685.3234

Recruiting and Retaining Minority Students


Your mission: To recruit – and retain – the very best and brightest of students to your graduate program, students who will become the next generation of innovators and leaders. This means reaching promising students of all backgrounds, means and cultures and showing them what the University of Washington offers and how they will fit in on campus.

By attracting underrepresented minority students through outreach, admissions, recruitment and retention, we improve and enrich the UW experience for all students and prepare them for the richness of a diverse society. If we provide supportive environments and ways for underrepresented minority students to connect with faculty and other students across campus, they are more likely to stay at the UW and complete their degrees.

Getting Started

GO-MAP (Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program), a program of the UW Graduate School, is the resource for recruiting and retaining minority and underrepresented minority graduate students. Drawing from our expertise and more than 40 diversity plans campus wide, we have compiled this guide of best practices for minority student recruitment.

We also provide a number of tools to boost your recruiting efforts.

  • Prospective Student Days – admitted prospective graduate students of color are invited to join us for Prospective Student Days (PSDs).  This event provides the opportunity for prospective students to learn more about the network of support for diverse graduate students on the UW campus.
  • National Name Exchange – an online database, developed and maintained by the UW Graduate School, with names of promising minority undergraduates from more than 54 nationally-known universities.
  • Graduate School Ambassadors – a corps of graduate students from across the UW who can connect with your prospective students and reinforce your messages.
  • Recruiting materials – PDFs with information on GO-MAP, graduate student and alumni profiles, and other documents that you can download and print and distribute at recruiting events and to prospective students.

The most important first step your department can take is to establish a diversity committee of faculty and graduate students who are committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse student population. The committee can set specific goals and deadlines and develop an action plan for diversifying your graduate student population, as well as consult with GO-MAP to identify and improve your diversity practices. We welcome your feedback, ideas and suggestions. Contact Cynthia Morales, GO-MAP director, (, or Anthony Salazar, graduate diversity specialist, (


The goal of outreach is to increase your applicant pool. UW departments have developed and utilize many tools to achieve this:

  • Recruitment fairs and conferences
  • Summer programs
  • Broad-based and one-to-one marketing
  • Utilization of student databases
  • Strategic partnerships and pipelines
  • Social media and websites

    These best practices are designed to ensure your department:
  • readily identifies prospective students,
  • gives them clear and appealing information on what you offer and
  • establishes initial relationships among prospective students and your faculty, staff and graduate students.

  • State your department's commitment to diversity on all recruiting materials.
  • Address diversity on your departmental website by highlighting programs and efforts that address diversity and by providing links to select UW student organizations, GO-MAP and cultural centers in the community. Examples: Information Science, Communication, Environmental and Forest Sciences and English.
  • In your web content and recruiting materials, identify:
    • programs of study that may be of interest to students who wish to explore diversity in their disciplines,
    • faculty whose research and teaching encompasses the complexities, conflicts and benefits of diversity in the field, and
    • courses of study and recent dissertation work that addresses topics related to diversity as academic fields.
  • Develop and post on your website videos that highlight faculty and students in your academic programs. Example: Mechanical Engineering.
  • Ensure your department participates in the National Name Exchange, an online database which is maintained by the UW Graduate School. More than 54 nationally-known universities share names of promising minority undergraduates who are interested in pursuing graduate education.
  • Offer minority and other underrepresented minority students Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in your undergraduate program to spark their interest in research and graduate careers. Examples: Physics and the Undergraduate Research Program.
  • Partner with K-12, community college and undergraduate programs that serve minority and underrepresented minority students—among them Upward Bound, GEAR-UP, MESA, McNair Scholars Program, Gates Millennium Scholars and College Success Foundation.
  • Participate in recruitment fairs, conferences, on-campus events and visits to feeder institutions. Example: School of Social Work
  • Expand your program's visibility by communicating with colleges and universities that serve large numbers of underrepresented minority students, such as historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
  • Encourage former students who are now at other colleges and universities to recommend the UW for graduate study.
  • Take advantage of faculty networking opportunities. When faculty members present at colleges and universities, or attend conferences, ask them to connect with underrepresented minority students. Ask your faculty to work with host institutions to identify students who may be interested in the UW.
  • Send faculty to meetings of organizations such as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).


Through the admissions process, your department determines which prospective students would be a good fit for your program. The process requires that each department establish a committee that considers diversity a key element in choosing students. Asking students to submit a personal history essay is particularly useful in helping admissions committees make decisions.

  • Your admissions committee should be representative of the diversity in your department and programs.
  • Although admissions decisions cannot be based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc., it is useful to consider ethnic identifiers in pre- and post- admission recruitment. By doing so, departments can take part in targeted recruitment strategies and monitor and report on the effectiveness of specific recruitment efforts. UW departments and programs may consider tribal or corporate enrollment or affiliation as a positive factor in admission, financial aid, and outreach programs. Verification of affiliation – which is required in order to benefit – consists of one of the following:
    • Official tribal identification.  (copy of a Tribal Enrollment card, treaty fishing card, corporation papers, or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) document.)
    • Certificate of membership verification by the BIA, a tribal enrollment official, community official, or proof of direct descent.
  • Learn about Initiative 200, the law that prohibits admitting students based solely on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. But, the law does not limit your diversity recruiting efforts.
  • The criteria used by the admissions committee should be holistic, meaning it should include quantitative and qualitative indicators of achievement.
  • Along with quantitative indicators like GPA and GRE scores, departments typically require qualitative instruments such as letters of recommendation and academic goal statements. In addition, encourage each applicant to submit a personal history essay that describes how his or her experiences and interests will contribute to your department. The essay—which may highlight economic and educational disadvantages, cultural awareness and the ability to overcome adversity—is also a valuable tool in selecting financial aid recipients. Departments should add the personal history essay to their admissions profiles in MyGrad Program.
  • Consider student affiliation with graduate prep programs—among them McNair Scholars, the Posse Foundation, Gates Millennium Scholars, College Success Foundation.

About Initiative 200

Recruiting Students Equally

The University of Washington has a long‐standing commitment to diversity and strives to recruit and retain a diverse student body. And while race, gender, color, national origin and ethnicity may not be used as factors in decisions on admissions to the general University or specific University programs, departments can – and are encouraged to – ensure a diverse applicant pool and student cohort.

In 1998 the State of Washington enacted Initiative 200 (I‐200) which states in part that "The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." In response to this initiative, the University established policies and procedures to assist various campus constituents in adhering to this law while supporting the University's commitment to diversity. While I‐200 applies also to employment and public contracting practices, the following excerpts refer to public education policies addressing outreach, recruitment and retention efforts aimed at supporting a diverse student enrollment.

How to Promote Diversity

Within the legal parameters of Initiative 200, the University continues to promote diversity in its many dimensions among its students, faculty and staff, and within its educational and other programs. These efforts help make the campus environment as hospitable as possible to all students. The University, and its departments, should:

  • Maintain and expand programs that encourage diverse populations of University students to pursue academic opportunities in areas in which they have historically been underrepresented.
  • Host informational outreach activities that are intended to encourage particular populations to enroll in University programs.
  • Ensure that educational development outreach programs that are designed to help such groups prepare academically for higher education are open to other individuals, as well. For example: Research Experiences for Undergraduates, the National Name Exchange and GO‐MAP Prospective Student Days.
  • Sustain and enhance academic support endeavors (e.g., tutoring and counseling) that are critical to the academic success of some students, and ensure they are open to all eligible students.


I‐200 does not prohibit the University from asking for information about an applicant's race, color, national origin, ethnicity and sex on its application forms. This information may be used for statistical purposes, such as tracking the effectiveness of the University's recruitment and outreach efforts. The University will continue to ask these questions in order to measure how effective admissions procedures are in recruiting students with specific backgrounds.

Some programs ask applicants to write essays regarding their cultural experiences and educational and economic disadvantage, and, in professional schools, intent to serve underserved populations. Such questions are permissible as long as they are not merely disguised attempts to obtain information regarding race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex for use by admission committees. An acceptable sample inquiry:

The [department] welcomes students who have varied cultural experiences or educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and will therefore contribute to the intellectual and social enrichment of the department/program. If you wish to have these factors included in the review of your application, please provide a statement concerning your personal history, family background, and influences on your intellectual development. This statement should include educational and cultural opportunities (or lack thereof), social and economic disadvantages that you may have had to overcome, and the ways in which these experiences affected you. Include your special interests and abilities, career plans, and future goals. [Where appropriate, add] Describe how you have demonstrated an interest in serving under‐served populations.

Departments are permitted and encouraged to ensure diversity by race, ethnicity and sex on admission committees. For example, a member of a departmental minority committee could be invited to be part of the admissions committee. It is not permissible to review or process applications differently based on these characteristics (e.g., applicants of minority backgrounds could not be given an extra review, in part because the required procedure would not allow for identification of minority applicants and because treating a group differently on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color or sex would violate I‐200).


Recruiting visits to schools, colleges and universities and participating in recruitment fairs are permitted and encouraged, as long as recruiters meet with all students who are interested in the University of Washington. The University can target institutions or areas with a high proportion of minority students for these activities. You may assign staff members to make special recruiting efforts aimed at underrepresented group members. For example:

  • Recruitment at targeted conferences such as SACNAS, ABRCMS and McNair Conferences.
  • Programs may prepare recruiting materials targeted to underrepresented groups. Such materials should include the statement: "Admissions decisions are made without consideration of race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex. Decisions may include consideration of diverse cultural experiences and educationally or economically disadvantaged background."
  • After admissions decisions have been made, it is permissible to make special contact (e.g., phone calls) with minority and female admittees to encourage them to accept admission offers. Departments are encouraged to make this effort.

NOTE: To supplement departmental contacts, your department may request additional support via the GO‐MAP Graduate Student Ambassadors program.

You may bring applicants from underrepresented groups to campus at University expense as part of special recruiting efforts, as long as they are not promised such things as special admission consideration or special scholarships. For example: GO‐MAP Prospective Student Days.

Programs whose names reflect targeted groups are permitted to maintain those names, as long as offerings are open to all and publications so state. 


Diversity scholarships and fellowships (those in which the donor expresses interest in helping members of specific groups but which can be given to members of any group) can be accepted and awarded by the University. Contact your departmental Advancement office or the central Advancement office if you have questions about restrictions on donor requests for awarding scholarships or fellowships.

The University may accept and award scholarships and fellowships funded by federal agencies and limiting recipients on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex.

With permission of the eligible students, the University may provide their names to outside organizations that are awarding scholarships or fellowships which include race, color, national origin, ethnicity and/or sex requirements.


The University may inform its students of scholarships or fellowships awarded by outside entities and that have specific race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex requirements.


The University may assist in disbursing scholarships and fellowships awarded by outside entities which have specific race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex requirements; but the University may not participate in the selection of recipients.

Central offices of the University may award additional money to departments for subsequent award as a scholarship, fellowship or assistantship to students, based upon the success of the department in attracting a diverse student population or upon their efforts at recruitment outreach. Departments may not use race, color, national origin, ethnicity or sex in selecting the ultimate recipients of the scholarships.

University programs are permitted to sponsor programs, events, receptions, email lists, etc., targeted to certain groups on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or sex, as long as no member of the University community is barred from participation.

To review a complete copy of these and other guidelines relating to I‐200 please visit the UW diversity resources website.


The recruitment of underrepresented minority students to graduate programs can be daunting, especially in disciplines where pools of qualified students may be small. However, you can increase your chances of finding qualified applicants by following the best practices for recruiting, planning your efforts and meeting deadlines for conferences, funding announcements and awards and by establishing and maintaining regular contact with your prospective students.

Once your department has identified which prospective students would be a good fit and the students have been admitted to the University, make multiple personal contacts by:

  • calling or emailing the prospective students,
  • sponsoring campus visits and
  • arranging for the students to meet with faculty, as well as peer recruiters

Keep in mind that prospective students want to feel connected to their programs of interest and that establishing this linkage is paramount. Recruiters should contact prospective students one to two times before admission and two to three times after admission by a graduate program advisor, faculty member, graduate student, or combination thereof.

While a competitive funding package is indispensible, never underestimate the value of personal contact.

Helpful recruiting resources:

  • Coordinate visits with GO-MAP's Prospective Student Days events. These events are designed to enhance departmental activities and provide prospective students with a sense of community among graduate students across UW departments and disciplines.
  • If prospective student visits do not coincide with Prospective Student Days, arrange for them to meet with one of GO-MAP's Graduate School Ambassadors for lunch or coffee, or invite a recruiter to speak with them.
  • Notify students of their admissions as early as possible. Prospective students are more likely to say yes to an early admission offer.
  • A faculty member and a graduate student should contact each admitted student personally to congratulate him or her and encourage him or her to consider the UW. This will give you with an opportunity to provide additional information to individual students.
  • Host prospective students. Set aside funding for campus visits, encourage early visits, assign a student host for each prospective student while he or she is on campus and have a faculty member follow up with personal contact.
  • Use fellowships to enhance diversity in your program. Leverage multi- year packages and/or top-off awards. Employ funding from interdisciplinary programs that complement a student's interests, an approach used by the West Coast Poverty Center, Science Technology Centers, and NASA Space Grant. Or take advantage of NSF and NIH training grants as supplemental funding.
  • Diversify your faculty through direct hiring or adjunct appointments. Faculty of color can help attract minority and underrepresented minority students to your department.

"At first GO-MAP provided opportunities to converse with colleagues on a campus I rarely crossed. Then, in moving to a new department across campus, the transition was less daunting because I realized GO-MAP had introduced me to a community."
—Savannah Benally, Molecular Cellular Biology; Science Education


Once a student enrolls in a graduate program, nothing matters more than the culture and climate the department cultivates for all of its students. While continued funding is always at the top of the list, a department must provide students with opportunities to connect with other students in their programs, as well as across the larger campus community. Ensure that students receive the best advising and mentoring available. A strong retention program helps students successfully complete their degrees and graduate in a timely manner.

  • Ensure that underrepresented minority students are provided continued funding and/or are connected fellowship resources outside of your department, such as the Graduate Funding Information Service (GFIS) and the Graduate School Fellowship Office.
  • Provide students with advisors who will mentor and encourage opportunities for social and intellectual engagement. This is especially important for minority and underrepresented minority students who may be hesitant to seek assistance or who may not easily network with their peers.
  • Consult the Graduate School's webpages on Mentoring and Professional Development, where resources such "Mentor Memos" help nurture students' intellectual growth.
  • Connect minority or underrepresented minority students with existing graduate reading/study groups or resources to help them initiate reading/study groups.
  • Establish a safe and transparent process through which graduate students can address discrimination and marginalization, as well as academic or personal concerns, such as career choices, modifying areas of study or changing advisors/graduate committee chairs without disrupting their course of study.
  • Encourage students and faculty to participate in GO-MAP events, including quarterly receptions (Getting Connected, Winter Quarter and End of the Year) and "Voices in Academia" lunches. At these events, students discuss ideas and academic and collegial interests. They also build community across departments and disciplines.
  • Learn how UW graduate students and alumni are making a difference in the world through profiles on the Graduate School website.


The scripts, printable PDF fact sheets and links below are provided to assist you in your recruitment and retention initiatives.

Recruitment Scripts

Not sure exactly what to say to a prospective student? These email and phone scripts are a good place to start:


  • Start Planning Now for Graduate School
    • A general description of the value of a graduate degree and how to start planning for it
    • Geared toward high school students, undergraduates and families
  • UW Graduate School fact sheet
    • Explains the Graduate School's purpose and mission
    • Includes enrollment numbers
    • Lists the many services the Graduate School provides
  • Graduate Study at the University of Washington
    • Highlights the requirements and how to apply to graduate school
    • Lists graduate programs at UW Seattle, UW Bothell and UW Tacoma campuses
  • GO-MAP fact sheet
    • Explains GO-MAP's purpose and mission
    • Lists the many services and events GO-MAP offers to graduate students

Diversity Planning at UW

Successful Diversity Programs at Peer Institutions

Other UW Campus Resources