Developing diversity

Developing diversity

Our School must become more diverse in our faculty, staff and students. (We follow UNC-Chapel Hill definition of diversity outlined in the Diversity Plan. This includes the many kinds of structural and contextual ways in which people differ, including race/ethnicity, gender, culture and disability.) Lack of diversity is a problem in US higher education. Most schools of public health are grappling with how to become more diverse. As a result, we’re now competing with each other for diverse faculty and students. Some schools, particularly private schools, have a lot more scholarship money, and that gives them a competitive advantage. But it is not only or all about money.

Going forward, academic institutions cannot rely solely on the increasingly diverse demographic eligible for higher education.  They must acknowledge and address the cultural and economic barriers that may prevent students of color and first-generation college students from pursuing a college degree, ensuring that the student body more accurately reflects the population that the academic institution serves. From Fast Company, Tony Clark author, Diversity and Academia.

We have been at this for a number of years, and we’ve done a lot. We’ve examined our data to understand where the roadblocks are and what could be done about them, changed the message in our ads to be more direct about our interest in recruiting women and minorities, done diversity training for leaders in the School, asked chairs to focus especially on recruiting diverse faculty and students and benefited from UNC-Chapel Hill programs to recruit diverse faculty members. We’ve also created funding opportunities especially (but not exclusively) for diverse students (not enough, for sure). Some departments have done even more—established pipeline programs, tried to change the internal culture, and created committees to enhance diversity. Our Office of Student Affairs is leading several exciting new activities. But still, the dial hasn’t moved enough.

2010 initiates the Diversity Decade in the School.  We are committed to building diversity across the School and obtaining more scholarships for diverse students. In January, our Minority Student Caucus will lead a town hall to discuss what the School can do to enhance diversity. We also are hoping to get some of our minority alumni together to advise us on strategies. In February, our student-led Minority Health Conference once again will showcase not only the research being done to overcome health disparities but the phenomenal students here at our School.

Making the School more diverse is really important to me personally. Most public health problems are exacerbated in underserved populations, and minorities are disproportionately represented in those groups. If we are going to eliminate health disparities, as our mission states, then we need a better cross-section of North Carolina, especially, in our School, as well as the international populations we aim to serve. I don’t want to be remembered as the dean who did not increase the School’s diversity.

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We’ve got a lot of work to do! Happy Monday! Barbara

Tagged  education, faculty

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