Neurobiology Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

Updated May 15, 2017

Within the overall domain of academic excellence, our goal is to create a diverse and inclusive neurobiology community. By doing so, we strengthen our community, increase opportunities for collaboration, promote the exchange of ideas and increase our overall success.

First, we seek to increase diversity by recruiting, hiring and training women and underrepresented minorities, including members of the LGBTQ community, people of color and people with disabilities. We recognize that through these efforts, and by providing superb mentoring, we can have an important impact on the diversity and quality of our institution and our field.

Second, we are committed to providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all our students, postdocs, staff and faculty. We teach and practice inclusiveness as one of the major steps towards the success of our diverse community with the hope that practices here will attract top students, postdocs, staff and faculty and also will seed practices elsewhere as our students and postdocs go on to their next positions.

Our community is composed of different “constituency groups,” including faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and staff. A major aim of our Diversity Plan is to provide support and increase representation for women and underrepresented minorities in each of these groups. We recognize that individuals and/or groups may have different concerns and varying levels of comfort bringing those concerns to leadership, and we strive to engage all in a way that is comfortable to them.


We will aim to recruit members of underrepresented groups into our community of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.

  • We will continue to enlist resources (e.g., groups that promote outreach/diversity) to encourage applications for positions at all levels from minorities.
  • We will continue to educate the faculty recruitment search committees about diversity strategies, and we will especially consider candidates who would add to the diversity of our department. For example, for a faculty candidate from an underrepresented group, we would consider an exception to the usual policy of recruiting from outside Duke for basic scientists.
  • We will focus our recruitment efforts on graduate students, as we can have the greatest impact on the field by recruiting and mentoring underrepresented minorities at the beginning of their careers.
  • We will organize a 1-hour training session on implicit bias for the members of the graduate student admissions committee.
  • With approved funding (e.g., training grant), we will provide a three-year fellowship opportunity for underrepresented minorities to become postdocs in Neurobiology.
  • We will engage with BioCoRE and other such resources at Duke to help recruit members of underrepresented groups (e.g., encourage Duke undergraduates to remain at Duke for graduate school).


We will enhance mentoring structures to promote success of all our students, postdocs and faculty.

  • We will continue to mentor graduate students, both formally and informally. Examples include the SINAPSE club (1:1 mentoring by older students), weekly research exposure opportunities such as student seminars, and regular one-on-one meetings with faculty.
  • We will maintain thesis committees that serve a collegial, supportive, mentoring function to ensure a productive and sustainable research experience for graduate students.
  • We will continue to encourage postdocs to form mentoring committees to give them access to a larger group of mentors and a broader perspective. This will be especially encouraged in underrepresented minority postdocs. Committees will be encouraged to meet at least yearly.
  • We will continue to maintain mentoring committees for all junior faculty. These mentoring committees are composed of senior faculty and meet twice a year.
  • We will engage with BioCoRE and other such resources at Duke that provide additional support and mentoring to students, bringing them to the attention of our students.


We will continue to build a more inclusive community in which every member feels valued and has access to decision-making and planning processes.

  • This strategic plan is posted on our website, and the link will be periodically emailed to everyone in the department and in the Neurobiology Graduate Training Program.
  • The membership of the Neurobiology Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and each member’s constituency group, will be advertised to all members of the department via the website so they will know where to turn with diversity and inclusiveness issues.
  • Committee members will meet at least yearly with their constituency groups to solicit feedback and to discuss potential areas for improvement. Generally, for constituency groups with standing regular meetings (e.g., faculty, admin team, students), at least one meeting each year, or parts of a number of meetings, will be devoted to discussing potential improvements in diversity and inclusion.
  • We will continue to include diverse representation on department committees (e.g., graduate student representatives on the Graduate Training Program Steering Committee). We will also create advisory groups on important issues (e.g., Web Advisory Group) and ensure diverse representation.
  • We will maintain an anonymous, web-based feedback form, so anyone can provide feedback on issues affecting the department.
  • We will provide implicit bias training for students as a start and a potential model for providing such training to other constituency groups.

Chair’s Role

The department chair will continue to model appropriate behavior, put issues on the table and be creative about initiatives to increase diversity and promote inclusiveness.

  • The Chair will include “Diversity and Inclusiveness” topics on faculty meeting agendas throughout the year.
  • The Chair will send communications to the department that encourage and celebrate diversity and inclusion (e.g., individual emails, announcements, web postings).
  • The Chair will continue to interact with members of the community at all levels and foster the attitude that it is productive to bring a concern to the Chair.
  • The Chair will continue to mentor people at all levels, including formal and informal one-on-one's, and proposing new mentoring structures.

Diversity & Inclusion Committee

We will support and maintain a Diversity & Inclusion Committee to help develop initiatives, coordinate activities and assess our successes and failures.

  • The committee will meet a minimum of two times each year and will advise the Chair on possible procedural, programmatic and process improvements.
  • The committee will be composed of at least one member from each constituency group in the department and a department representative on the School of Medicine Diversity and Inclusion Council. The committee members will each serve as liaisons to their constituency group(s) and as representatives to the department.
  • The committee will conduct annual appraisals of Neurobiology successes, gaps and challenges; and at the end of each fiscal year, will meet with the Chair to update this strategic plan as appropriate.


We will measure our successes, gaps and challenges to help inform our practices and procedures.

  • We will keep data on the number of women and underrepresented minority members of our community, including within each of the other constituency groups.
  • We will quantify the progress of students from underrepresented minorities and compare that to the progress of non-minority students.
  • We will track the career progression of students from underrepresented minorities who have graduated in the past five years.
  • We will measure our success at promoting underrepresented minorities to their respective next levels: matriculating students to Ph.D.'s, Ph.D. students to postdoctoral positions or independent positions in industry, postdocs to faculty positions or suitable positions in other sectors, and junior faculty to tenure.
  • We will create a survey to periodically assess the feelings of department members at all levels about inclusiveness and diversity.