Diversity and Inclusion

New graduates walk from commencement ceremonies to a gathering in the Armfield Atrium.

New graduates walk from commencement ceremonies to a gathering in our Atrium.

Diversity and Inclusion at Gillings

At UNC-Gillings, we cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment to better prepare our students for the diverse world that awaits them – a world that seeks culturally competent people to serve as its leaders.

When we embrace the socioeconomic, physical, cultural, racial and ethnic differences of our students, faculty and staff, we enrich the quality of coursework, classroom discussions, research and practice within the School and beyond.

Explore UNC-Gillings, and you will find this ethos visible in our:

  • research priorities, courses, curricula, programs and special offerings;
  • student organizations and activities;
  • partnerships; and
  • in our efforts to recruit and support excellent students, faculty and staff from the widest possible backgrounds



Mission Driven

Diversity and inclusion are central to our mission to improve public health, promote individual well-being and eliminate health disparities across North Carolina and around the world.

Find out more about our School’s commitment to diversity, including:

Diversity statement (2011).

Equal Employment Opportunity statement (2012).

SPH2020: Our strategic plan (2010).

Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce report (2011).


At UNC Gillings, we train a diverse group of dedicated students to become world-class leaders and researchers.

Discover more about the research we do, the training we offer, and the outreach we engage in to overcome disparities:

Ethnicity, Culture and Health Outcomes (ECHO)

Minority Health Conference

Minority Health Project

Diversity Outreach, Recruitment and Programs

Diversity-Related Student Groups


At UNC-Gillings, you will find a commitment to:

  • respectful, welcoming classroom environments for all
  • student colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
  • understanding and working with people from diverse cultures and communities;
  • diversity outreach and recruitment with the next generation of potential public health leaders.

From 1940 to Today: A legacy of diversity and inclusion

UNC-Gillings welcomes you!

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH

Our legacy of diversity and inclusion. “Since the School’s inception almost 75 years ago, our faculty, students and staff have pushed themselves to make UNC-Gillings a diverse and inclusive environment, even as they worked to create the social and physical conditions to support health for all.

This legacy, upheld and reaffirmed across decades, was one reason I was so honored to be appointed dean in 2008 and to lead the School in extending those achievements.  All around me I have found willing partners in this effort.

SPH2020, a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion. In 2010, our School’s leadership engaged in a strategic planning process, SPH2020, in which we asked faculty, staff, students, and alumni from across the School to weigh in about their vision for UNC-Gillings  in 2020. Hundreds shared their thoughts

I was humbled and profoundly gratified by the desire – expressed by stakeholders from all departments and across all ranks– to enhance the diversity and inclusiveness of our School. This commitment:

  • springs from our past,
  • grows from within,
  • flourishes from the ground up, and
  • extends into the future. 

Read on to discover more about how we embrace this vision, including how you, too, can participate and make a difference.

–Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor

The first cohort of health education students at North Carolina Negroes College. Dr. Lucy Morgan, second row, left.
The first cohort of health education students at North Carolina Negroes College. Dr. Lucy Morgan, second row, left.
  • 1940: UNC School of Public Health established
  • 1940s-50s: Field training programs created across the U.S. to close racial gaps in health outcomes
  • 1945: Joint public health training program established with North Carolina Central University (then the North Carolina Negroes College). Close partnerships with NCCU continue to this day. At a time when the South was segregated, people in this School were not intimidated by prevailing customs. That spirit is part of our school’s DNA.
  • 1950s: Students from around the world earn graduate degrees from our programs, including students from Burma, Formosa, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, India, Israel, Nicaragua, Paraguay and the Phillipines.
  • 1955: Health education training program focused on the needs of American Indians established in partnership with the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • 1959: Dr. John Cassel, a South African expat who left his country because of its apartheid policies, becomes the first chair of the School’s new Department of Epidemiology. Other South African public health luminaries join the faculty at our School.
  • 1960s: School faculty and students organize sit-ins and marches advocating desegregation and civil rights. Numbers of African-American and international students grow; their presence and advocacy are a catalyst for change.
  • 1964: William A. Darity and Edward V. Ellis become the first African-Americans to earn doctoral degrees (in health education) from the School — and from the UNC Graduate School.
Students at an early Minority Student Caucus meeting

Students at an early Minority Student Caucus meeting


  • 1968: South African native Dr. Guy Steuart joins SPH faculty as chair of Health Education. He brings with him the Action-Oriented Community Diagnosis methodology, an interdisciplinary approach to gaining a nuanced understanding of the dynamics, resources and problems of communities and how these factors affect the health of individuals who live in them. This methodology is used to this day as an ethical way to work with vulnerable communities.
  • 1971: The Black Student Caucus (now the Minority Student Caucus) is  launched by students. Key faculty members support their efforts. The Caucus still helps UNC-Gillings sustain a diverse, inclusive environment and research and outreach focus on health disparities.
  • 1977: The School’s Minority Student Caucus organizes the first Minority Health Conference. Now in its fourth decade, over 1000 researchers and practitioners participate each year in this student-led, national conference.
  • 1985: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases its first task force report on Black and minority health. The School gets research funding to study critical minority health issues, including funding for cancer prevention and control as well as for cardiovascular health.
  • 1980s: With effective advocacy on the part of students, courses established on women’s health, minority health.

Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN

Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, Clinical Professor Director of Multicultural Affairs at UNC’s School of Nursing. Dr. Alexander serves as Diversity Champion for UNC-Gillings. In this role, she provides guidance and support to faculty, staff and students from across the School on creating a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful environment for all.

  • 1994: The School’s Minority Health Project is started.
  • 1997: The School’s Program on Ethnicity, Culture and Health Outcomes is launched.
  • 2001: Interdisciplinary Certificate in Health Disparities launched.
  • 2005: Dr. Barbara K. Rimer is named dean and makes overcoming health disparities a top priority for the School.
  • 2010: Diversity and Inclusion are named as one of four priority foci in SPH2020, our School’s strategic plan.
  • 2011: The School’s Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce offers its recommendations for strengthening diversity at UNC-Gillings. Faculty, staff and students start putting key recommendations from the blueprint into action:
    • Diversity champion, Dr. Rumay Alexander, is appointed for the School;
    • Course in LGBT Health is developed and launched;
    • Dean’s Council posts its diversity statement;
    • We revise and broadly circulate our EEO statement.
  • 2012: Specialist in diversity programs and recruitment, Ms. Trinnette Cooper, is hired; summer programs are updated.
  • 2013: Admissions practices are reviewed across departments; new, promising practices are adopted.

Trinnette Cooper

Interested in hearing directly from students about their experience at UNC-Gillings? Contact us! We will pair you a student enrolled in one of our programs.

Charla Hodges, HB MPH student

Charla Hodges, HB MPH student, co-chair, 2014 Minority Health Conference

Maryka Lier, HB MPH student, co-chair, 2014 Minority Health Conference

Maryka Lier, HB MPH student, co-chair, 2014 Minority Health Conference

Leadership and Dedication 

“Serving as co-chairs of the School’s 2014 Minority Health Conference has been an unparalleled opportunity. We have:

  • Worked with students across every department in the School;
  • Gotten to know students from colleges and universities from across the U.S.;
  • Worked closely with national leaders in the area of health disparities;
  • Received fantastic mentoring from faculty and other student leaders; and
  • Gained experience in making many tough decisions on tight deadlines.

We both believe that the experience of being co-chairs of this annual conference–the oldest student-run conference in the U.S.–has shaped us in ways we don’t even know yet; what we have learned will serve us throughout our professional lives. Almost more than anything, we’ve had the experience of making a difference right now, as students.

Charla Hodges and Maryka Lier

Derrick Matthews (PhD, HB, 2013) and Dio Kavaliertos (PhD, HPM, 2013). Derrick and Dio both currently hold postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh, Derrick in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, and Dio at the RAND Institute within the School of Medicine.

Derrick Matthews (PhD, HB, 2013) and Dio Kavalieratos (PhD, HPM, 2012). Derrick and Dio both currently hold postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh, Derrick in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, and Dio at the RAND Institute within the School of Medicine.

Advocacy and Commitment

Opportunities to shape the School’s environment.  “As doctoral candidates at UNC-Gillings, we both had the pleasure of developing and teaching a course in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health (LGBT Health: A population perspective). This graduate seminar, listed in both Health Behavior (HB) and Health Policy and Management (HPM), was reflective of the perspective that health and health inequities experienced by LGBT populations are systematic, the result of social structures, and can be alleviated through altering the environment through research-based intervention and policy change.”

Getting the course underwayValuing the work of the School’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (2011), we expressed the need for the School’s academic mission to directly reflect that commitment. To that end, the Health Sciences LGBTQ Alliance, spearheaded by Derrick, developed a report summarizing where the School was and could be with respect to integrating LGBT health into its formal educational programs. Dio used this report to lobby both the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in HPM and the school-wide Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, regarding the need for, and potential of, this course. With the help of students, faculty, UNC’s Center for Faculty Excellence, and The Fenway Institute, we were able to draft a syllabus. The course underwent rigorous formal review by both HPM and HB, and several faculty “champions” helped move the process forward.

Both of us learned valuable skills in developing a new course as PhD students and also refined our skills as instructors. Additionally, we learned from our students. Ours was the first jointly-offered course by HPM and HB, exemplifying productive collaboration already occurring among faculty and students across the School. Finally, we were able to apply much of what we learn in public health on a smaller scale: how to effectively build partnerships, advocate for change, and work to make it happen. For both of us, teaching this course was a phenomenal way to culminate our doctoral experiences.

Dio Kavalieratos and Derrick Matthews

We welcome your perspective.
The richness that diversity brings to everyone's learning experience cannot be captured with numbers alone. We know that. Our students bring widely differing perspectives to the table. This incredible wealth of diversity means our students teach each other as much as we teach them.
We value these contributions. They help shape our research questions and make us better practitioners.
Anna Maria Siega-Riz, PhD
Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition; Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

At UNC-Gillings, transparency about where we are with diversity is part of who we are

  • You are so much more than a number to us…so read our stories, reach out to our current students, and pay us a visit to discover the many ways we support a diverse and inclusive environment.
  • We aim to create an environment that more closely represents the diversity of our state, nation and world
  • We aim to create leaders skilled in working with people from all backgrounds.
  • We can do even better. To do this, we set benchmarks for this vision of the future… and take specific actions to meet them.

Hereis a snapshot of a few of the ways we are diverse. You can help us capture more by describing, in your application statement, how you would bring diversity to our programs and School.

Seventy percent of our students, and 52 percent of our faculty are women; ten percent of our student body is international.

Student Diversity, 2012 Student Diversity, 2013Faculty Diversity, 2013
From our inception to today, we have been setting standards in understanding and creating the social and physical conditions that support health for all.