Diversity and inclusion report proclaimed the ‘end of the beginning’

September 27, 2011

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When the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health met earlier this month to celebrate more than a year of hard work and the completion of a draft report, task force members understood that the greatest effort was yet to come.

Assistant dean for students Felicia Mebane endorses the DITF report with her signature.

Assistant dean for students Felicia Mebane endorses the DITF report with her signature.

Nevertheless, the group met on Sept. 8 to formally endorse its recommendations presented to the School community in a report titled “In Our Hands: 13 Recommendations on Diversity and Inclusion to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Community.”

In his opening statements, task force co-chair Bryan Weiner, PhD, called the report the “end of the beginning.” Weiner, professor of health policy and management, led the charge with co-chair Rumay Alexander, EdD, clinical professor and director of multicultural affairs at UNC’s School of Nursing.

“Implementation is the harder piece,” Alexander added. “We truly need to hold that sacred. It’s in our hands.”

Dean Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, charged the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (DITF) in April 2010 to identify barriers and facilitators to increasing diversity and inclusion in the School and to recommend changes that would take the School to a new level of diversity among students, faculty and staff.

“We had taken steps to increase diversity,” Rimer said. “But as one of our student leaders said, ‘We had done a lot, but not a lot had changed.’ A different approach was needed.”

The DITF surveyed the School community, conducted a dozen focus groups, consulted with department chairs and program leaders, and reviewed the history of the School’s efforts to increase diversity. In April 2011, the DITF shifted its focus from assessment to recommendations in three critical areas: organizational climate, recruitment and retention, and curriculum.

“By design and with integrity, the DITF worked to know about the lived experiences and the impact of those experiences on students, faculty and staff,” Alexander said. “The courageous dialogue brought collective wisdom together and thus the recommendations provided in this report.”

Weiner said the recommendation teams, culled from the 60-member task force, sought to make recommendations that were specific enough to be actionable, powerful enough to create meaningful change and feasible enough to be implemented within a difficult budgetary context. “I believe they succeeded on all three fronts,” he said.

Several weeks ago, the task force posted its draft plan on the School’s website and requested feedback. On Sept. 13, Weiner and Alexander met with the Dean’s Council to begin the transition from recommendation to implementation. The School will incorporate adopted recommendations into its strategic plan (SPH2020), engage internal and external stakeholders, monitor progress and maintain accountability for results.

“Even with this excellent report and recommendations, change will not happen without all of us staying committed,” Rimer said. “Diversity and inclusion are outcomes of many smaller steps – and whether we are willing to keep looking at ourselves and asking hard questions about whether we are doing enough, whether we are doing the right things, and how we could do better. We can really make a difference if we keep it up.”

Feedback on the report is requested and will be accepted through Sept. 30.

 

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu