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MS&E DE&I Annual Report

Issued June 25, 2023

This year’s Annual MS&E DE&I report includes information collected between September 2022 and May 2023. This is our third-year review and annual update on data and programming. We provide updates in four key areas of our progress toward making MS&E an inclusive place where students, faculty, and staff of any background should feel like they belong:

The following core principles and values drive our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in MS&E:

  • A long-term commitment to improving representation across all areas of the department, and particularly a focus on broadening the early parts of the academic pipeline
  • A focus on the culture of inclusion
  • An evidence-based approach that is well-coordinated with the university-wide IDEAL and School of Engineering DE&I initiatives
  • A particular focus on our first-generation and low-income (FLI) community

Each of the initiatives described below helps to improve our culture of inclusion, our representation, or both.

Where are we now? Data and student feedback

Looking at the data from applicants to admits to graduates, we find that our admission, yield, retention, and graduation rates for historically underrepresented and female students look very positive. Historically, the main bottleneck has been in the number of applications from underrepresented groups, both for students and faculty. This year, we are very happy to see that as a result of our initiatives over the past three years, we have seen significant growth in the number of applications to our graduate programs (MS and PhD) from URM groups. At the Master’s level, the number of applications has increased by 58%, which helped lead to a 150% increase in the matriculation rate for URM students since 2019 (the cycle before the DE&I committee started in MS&E). At the PhD level, the number of applications from URM groups has increased by 89%, leading to a 300% increase in URM admissions (relative to 2019). In addition, these results are not simply due to a general increase in URM applications to the School of Engineering as the increases are significantly higher than the increases for the SOE overall. We find these improvements very encouraging, but we need to continue the work to make sure the trend continues in this direction in the years to come.

Over the past three years, we have collected student feedback through multiple channels, including town halls, anonymous comment boxes, and focus groups. Our review of that feedback made it clear that building a better sense of community and culture of inclusion and creating better representation in our faculty and classroom guest speakers remain key priorities from students' perspective.

This year, we repeated and expanded on the focus groups we ran previously to gather more feedback on how we are doing in building the sense of inclusion and belonging (as well as where more work remains to be done). The first category of feedback we heard was about the student experience in the classroom. We heard positive feedback from students about courses and interactions with professors and classmates. They noted that professors were very open to getting to know students and they felt an overall collaborative and non-competitive environment among students in MS&E classrooms. The second category of feedback was around department programming outside of the classroom. Some focus group participants had attended DE&I events (but not all had), yet all stated they were grateful to see that those spaces existed and were interested in attending future events. Students who had attended indicated they enjoyed the events and plan to continue to come in the future. Overall, awareness of our community-building events is spreading through different student groups, though we need to continue to broaden communication of DE&I-related events. 

Student focus groups also identified a number of opportunities for further improvements. One request we heard was for more clarity on how to get involved in the department, specifically in course teaching assistantship (CA) opportunities and research assistant opportunities. Second, we heard requests for opportunities for mentorship and better communication on graduate school financing. In terms of representation, we heard requests for more students and faculty of color. Students in the focus groups expressed a request for greater diversity of classes including more data science and public sector-focused classes, and also more hands-on learning opportunities (via company visits, alumni connections, etc.).

Overall, students were looking for more ways to be involved in the department and wanted clear ways to do so. They expressed strong interest in additional social and community building activities.

What should we do? Evidence from literature

We continued to review the academic research literature for empirical evidence on what types of interventions have been successful in improving student recruitment and representation, sense of community, culture, and educational outcomes. At a high level, we continue to find and circulate among the committee members interesting empirical research on topics related to diversity and inclusion in universities, especially in STEM fields. For example, recent research examines “endorsements”, a common, informal network practice of signaling support for certain applicants, which is shown to significantly boost an applicant’s likelihood of admissions and disproportionately benefits certain demographic groups (Castilla, 2022).

There is also recent research published this year in Science by Greg Walton, a faculty member in psychology here at Stanford on the positive impacts of social belonging interventions on historically underrepresented students (Walton et al. 2023).

We also have sought opportunities to engage with the community of scholars working on these topics. This year, June 5-8th, our proposal on the initial results from our Undergraduate Diversity in Research (UDR) program was accepted to be presented at the ADVANCE Equity in STEM conference hosted by Duke University. Various faculty members in the department also are conducting research related in various ways to issues of diversity and inclusion ranging from entrepreneurship to migration to public policy issues around health equity and criminal justice reforms.

Current strategy: Highlighting our work from the past year

Recruiting and Outreach

Our recruiting event, MS&E SERGE, built on the success of the School of Engineering-wide Stanford Exposure to Research and Graduate Education (SERGE) event. MS&E SERGE is a day-long recruitment event in collaboration with the main SOE SERGE event. One of our PhD admits attended MS&E SERGE events, (in addition to two from last year) which shows the program aided our efforts at increasing representation at the doctoral level.

After the event, we also offered application workshops to help students with writing a statement of purpose, choosing recommenders, and other aspects of the application process. We welcomed students from a wide variety of institutions, as our goal is to reach as many high potential URM students as possible, wherever they may be. Our post-event survey results show significant increases in the exposure to various aspects of the MS&E department and student life as well as an increase in the likelihood of applying to the MS&E department this year or in the future as a result of attending SERGE.

Community-building and Representation

Community-building events were a key component of our programming this past year. Alumni panels hosted by the MS&E Career Collaborative Program provided a platform for MS&E alumni to share their journeys, experiences, and advice with current students. We hosted a range of social and professional events aimed at building a community for underrepresented students in the MS&E department. These included 50 total in-person student attendees in addition to MS&E faculty and alumni in attendance.

This year, we also partnered with the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) and the First-Generation/Low-Income Alumni Network (FLAN) to host the first FLI in entrepreneurship community events. The goal was to empower first generation and low-income (FLI) students to understand entrepreneurship, gain tools (confidence, skills, networks) to pursue careers and to strengthen the FLI student & FLI alumni community.

Undergraduate Research Experiences

The MS&E Undergraduate Diversity in Research (UDR) program pairs students with an MS&E mentor to work for 10 or more weeks in their mentor's research group. The UDR cohort also meets regularly to build community, share experiences, and provide guidance and support. Building on the highly successful pilots of the program in the past two years, we saw an accelerating level of student and faculty interest, resulting in an increase from 70 student applications each year, to receiving 70 student applications per quarter this year. We created additional programming aimed at skill building workshops on Python/R and more community-building and ensured that students continued in the UDR program for at least two quarters of research.

This year, we had 31 students working alongside 21 faculty mentors and their PhD students for 1-3 quarters of research. There were weekly meetings with mentors and check-ins (via email) with UDR staff, a welcome reception with students from prior cohorts, a MS&E co-term info session, cohort work sessions, coffee chats, and end-of-quarter research presentations. Our pre and post-surveys showed quantitative evidence of positive effects on interest in graduate degrees and  inclusion/belonging in MS&E.

As part of the Stanford MS&E: Stories & Voices podcast, we chatted with several student participants in the UDR program. Hear their stories, experiences, and plans for the future here.

Rising Stars

The Management Science and Engineering Department (MS&E) at Stanford University launched its first of what we expect will be an annual Rising Stars workshop on Tuesday, May 2nd. The workshop aimed to increase representation and diversity in the interdisciplinary fields represented by MS&E, while focusing on celebrating and fast-tracking the careers of exceptional young scholars at a critical inflection point in their career. The workshop showcased the exciting, innovative research by a group of 17 rising scholars. The program had broad participation from MS&E faculty and PhD students in the event from mentorship to hosting lunch, dinner and even ice breaker activities. Participants described the event as ‘fantastic and worthwhile’, and ‘really great overall – great diversity, disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives’, and particularly appreciated the mentoring sessions. Additional quotes from student participants are shared below:

  • “Thanks so much for a fantastic and worthwhile event! It was very valuable and meeting and getting to know other participants was a particular highlight.”
  • “The mentor sessions were great. I’ve been to a few workshops and hadn’t had the opportunity to connect 1-on-1 with professors in this manner.”
  • “The mentoring session was extremely helpful! Faculty gave excellent feedback that was very personal and straightforward.”
  • “Thank you for hosting this workshop… I learned a lot from the presentations, panels, and mentoring session. I would love to stay engaged/involved with MS&E after this.”

What next? Future initiatives

While we have made great progress over the past year, there remains much work to be done, and we are eager to make progress on many new initiatives in the near future. At a high level, we want to build out both internal and external recruiting pipelines into our graduate programs and continue to improve on our culture of inclusion in the department.

This year, we initiated a pilot of a University Partnership program with our first university partner, San Jose State University, who we are excited to work with as they have a strong engineering program with a large number of first generation, low-income students. The mission of the program is to help rising undergraduate juniors and seniors from historically underrepresented backgrounds at partner institutions, particularly those in STEM disciplines, gain exposure to graduate studies in MS&E and MS&E-related fields (e.g. business, engineering, economics, statistics, etc.). The University Partnership program targets FLI undergraduate rising juniors and seniors from historically underrepresented backgrounds, particularly those studying STEM disciplines and interested in graduate school.

As part of the University Partnership program, students at our partner institution, San Jose State University, will be matched with a Stanford M.S. or PhD. student mentor and meet on a regular basis with their mentor throughout the summer and fall. Students will also participate in application and statement of purpose workshops, cohort social events, and networking with faculty and students involved in DEI leadership in the Stanford MS&E department.

We also initiated a Tuition Waiver Program for the 2023-24 academic year, which provides opportunities for students at other universities to take advantage of online courses alongside Stanford students to gain exposure to MS&E course content and faculty. Our hope is that these types of programs will broaden our external pipelines for recruiting, benefit partner institutions, and further improve the MS&E community and its culture of inclusion and belonging.

Other future initiatives we plan to pursue include improving the relationship and community with URM alumni (e.g. alumni mentorship with a pilot being run by STVP in collaboration with the Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI) Fellows program), expanding the UDR program, fundraising to provide more support and resources for our programming, we are also looking into the possibilities for lowering application fees, including through application fee waivers.

Finally, we want to acknowledge and thank all of the members of the MS&E community and the broader Stanford DE&I champions for all of the feedback, help and ideas you have provided us with. Doing this work is not only the responsibility of the faculty, staff, and students who worked tirelessly on this committee, but it also depends on the tremendous support, insights, talent, and feedback from the community. Thank you for helping us to continue this critical work.

Please let us know if you have any feedback, encouragement, questions, or suggestions. Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion is a community effort, and we look forward to hearing from you.


Castilla, E.J., 2022. Gender, Race, and Network Advantage in Organizations. Organization Science, 33(6), pp.2364-2403.

Walton, G.M., Murphy, M.C., Logel, C., Yeager, D.S., Goyer, J.P., Brady, S.T., Emerson, K.T., Paunesku, D., Fotuhi, O., Blodorn, A. and Boucher, K.L., 2023. Where and with whom does a brief social-belonging intervention promote progress in college?. Science, 380(6644), pp.499-505.