Observation

Video: For Marginalized Grad Students, A Guide to the “Hidden Curriculum”

Silence, it is said, often speaks volumes. Similarly, the “hidden curriculum” of graduate school—from knowing where to apply to finding mentors to conquering grant writing—is almost palpably evident to many young scholars marginalized by race, ethnicity, or other factors. How can you excel academically and emotionally when you can’t even find the curriculum?   

To make matters worse, “there’s no handbook for how to process that people who look like you continue to be killed every day—and then [to have to] show up for research meetings, therapy sessions with clients, and class and having to act like nothing happened,” said Déjà N. Clement, a PhD student in clinical psychology at Oklahoma State University. “We have been navigating the ivory tower despite not seeing people who look like us. Psychology and psychological science have an incredibly long way to go to reach equity for marginalized scholars.”   

Clement and five other women discussed these and additional challenges facing racially marginalized graduate students in a recent APS webinar about DiSSECT (Dismantling Systemic Shortcomings in Education and Clinical Training), an innovative effort to facilitate antiracist progress in graduate education. DiSSECT is a national organization led by graduate students striving to advance antiracist initiatives in clinical psychology and related graduate training programs by increasing access to resources and highlighting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) perspectives. The panelists discussed one of the resources in development, the Marginalized Graduate Student Survival Kit, which is designed to help graduate students with racially marginalized identities successfully navigate graduate training and academia.  

Launched last summer with the help of an APS microgrant, DiSSECT was inspired in part by the police shootings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, said Clement.   

“Essentially, our goal is to help facilitate systemic change in clinical psychology and related training programs by creating, compiling, and disseminating antiracism-related open-access resources to help programs enact necessary changes as seamlessly as possible,” said Jaisal T. Merchant, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, in the webinar. “We hope to do this while amplifying the voices of those BIPOC researchers and advocates who have been doing this work, most of whom have been doing so long before we started with DiSSECT.”  

Ariana Rivens, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia, elaborated on the purpose of the toolkit.   

“We seek to make the hidden curriculum visible and challenge it to transform to be equitable and transparent,” she said. “In short, we want racial and ethnically marginalized students to have this kit as an additional resource—not the only one.”  

DiSSECT is still under development, but you can get involved by emailing the team at dissect.team@gmail.com, completing the DiSSECT Involvement Survey, following DiSSECT on Twitter (@dissect_), or accessing this growing list of resources in the survival kit, including websites, podcasts, mentorships, funding opportunities, and more.

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