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College of Science hosts first diversity town hall for graduate students

Our graduate community in the College of Science is composed of a melting pot of students, disciplines, backgrounds, and interests. With challenging programs and impressive research, Master’s and PhD students are busy taking the next steps in their career.

With this, came the idea that there should be conversation over the needs of the COS graduate students to help them feel a part of their diverse community. This October, the first Diversity Town Hall for Graduate Students was held in collaboration with College of Science Dean Ken Henderson, Professor Carla Mattos of the Department of Chemistry, Professor Denise Jackson of the Department of Psychology, members from the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (OIDI), and collection of graduate students representing many departments in the college. Mattos and Jackson were key players in coordinating this event.

“This was a great step in building a more diverse and inclusive environment for our graduate students. I was impressed by the clear passion for involvement, and the interest to build networks across departments in the college,” Dean Henderson said. “Several of the personal stories of the participants illustrated tangible initiatives that we can focus upon to improve the student experience at Northeastern.”

The meeting began with an introduction from Dean Henderson presenting the many diversity and inclusion initiatives that the College of Science has been focusing on in the past year. This includes the formation of the COS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the diversity website and newsletter, the Dean’s Award for diversity, and the $1 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grantwhich will help to train faculty on inclusive teaching for students in science.

From there, the floor opened up for students to discuss their ideas and concerns for diversity at the graduate level. Directed by some questions from Mattos, many students openly shared their innovative ideas and personal barriers they’ve experienced as a student here.

“The meeting was very dynamic, with many students voicing their experiences and opinions. We made some real progress in areas in which we can move forward with changes,” Mattos said.

Students share their ideas for diversity initiatives for graduate COS students.

Many of the ideas brought up during the town hall tied into creating a tighter community at the graduate level. Students expressed feeling overwhelmed or unaware by the possibilities out there or the necessary next steps to take in their time here. By creating a more concrete network for both local and international graduate students, they could see themselves being more successful.

“We were able to reach into some areas that are not part of the usual discourse between faculty and students in order to fill gaps in understanding students’ needs. The leadership in the College of Science has some actionable items, such as diversifying the communication venues used to reach students and to communicate some of the outcomes of this conversation to the PhD network,” Mattos said.

Students discuss how to increase diversity efforts among the graduate programs in the College of Science.

With the success of this initial town hall meeting, monthly meetings will now take place to continue the conversation and inevitably lead to progress and actions for diversity initiatives among the graduate student population. Mattos and Jackson encourage anyone interested to join them in this exciting endeavor.

To learn more or get involved, please contact Melissa Rischall (, Assistant Director for Graduate Administration.


On November 16 at 12 PM in 206 Mugar, the College of Science will be hosting an Information Session about the Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE), taking the next steps following the town hall meeting. Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Steven Lopez, Co-President/Co-Founder of the ADSE will share how they can help support the college’s diversity initiatives. If you’re a COS graduate student interested in attending, please register here.

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