The inclusive excellence action plan is a collaborative, living document that guides efforts of the Gillings community as we work toward inclusive excellence. 

About the Inclusive Excellence Action Plan

The Gillings School has a long history of activism and research focused on reducing inequities and creating a more diverse and inclusive school. As recently as 2010, as part of the SPH2020 strategic planning process, over 60 faculty, students and staff from across Gillings came together to recommend 13 major actions for improving diversity and inclusion. We implemented most of these recommendations over an 8-year period but did not move the needle significantly in terms of creating a supportive, equitable climate for all. 

In 2018, we leapt forward by hiring Kauline Cipriani, PhD, assistant (and later associate) dean for inclusive excellence, and by creating a team of inclusive excellence professionals to both prioritize, guide and evaluate our efforts in this sphere, and to create programs and resources to support this work. Under Dr. Cipriani’s guidance, and with the participation and leadership of nearly 100 Gillings faculty, students, staff and alumni, we developed our Inclusive Excellence Action Plan, adopted in fall 2019. The plan initially focused on five strategic focus areas: training, curriculum, communications, advocacy, and representation. In fall 2020, we added research as a sixth focus area. Our Inclusive Excellence Action Plan arises from our mission and values to eliminate health inequities across North Carolina and around the world; and is a core part of our values, which includes building, supporting and sustaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive anti-racist community, well-prepared to address 21st-century health inequities. Read on to discover more about each strategic focus area, including key strategies, accomplishments, accountabilities and outcomes.

Have questions or feedback?

Please contact Kristine Villaflor (kthorne@unc.edu).


Focus Area 1: Require Inclusive Excellence Training with a Strong Anti-Racist Component for Faculty, Staff and Teaching Assistants

All faculty, staff and teaching assistants at Gillings are expected to complete a minimum of eight hours of inclusive excellence training each year. Requiring antiracism training for all Gillings faculty and staff was the top ranked recommendation of all 14 received at the Inclusive Excellence Action Session in January 2019 and is consistent with recommendations from Gillings School constituencies over more than 5 years. Requiring inclusive excellence training was a strong recommendation from our Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (2015) and a top recommendation from the NC Commission on Inclusion 2018 report. This requirement also addresses needs revealed in end-of-course surveys and focus groups with faculty, staff and students, who called for enhanced training and resources regarding cultural humility and working with diverse populations.

Goals

  • Everyone in a position of power, which includes those who make decisions about resource allocations for RA and TA positions, course structure and content, shares a common understanding of what an inclusive environment looks like (and does not look like) and acts on that understanding.
  • All instructors are able to facilitate inclusive, respectful discussions about sensitive topics such as racism and other forms of oppression.
  • All members of the Gillings community uphold values of inclusion and respect in interactions with each other.
  • How We Get There: Key Actions

  • Require a minimum of eight hours of annual inclusive excellence and anti-racism training for Gillings leadership, faculty, staff and teaching assistants.
  • Regularly update inclusive excellence and anti-racism training and teaching resources for Gillings leadership, faculty, staff and teaching assistants.
  • Understand and intervene on microaggressions reported through the Student Feedback and Equity Concerns form across the Gillings School.
  • Continue improving how anti-racism and equity-focused work are integrated in performance expectations for annual reviews.
  • Create safe spaces for BIPOC students, faculty and staff to cope with racial trauma and microaggressions.
  • What We’ve Accomplished

  • Notified all faculty, staff, teaching assistants, research assistants and graduate assistants at Gillings that they are required to complete at least eight hours of inclusive excellence professional development each year (Summer 2020).
  • Created, regularly implemented and evaluated a large array of inclusive excellence and anti-racism training for faculty, staff and teaching assistants at different levels (2020-present).
  • Began tracking and reporting participation in the IE and anti-racism training program (Spring 2021-present).
  • Included the IE training requirement as part of annual review for faculty and staff (Summer 2021-present).
  • Launched and publicized the Student Feedback and Equity Concerns reporting system (Spring 2021-present), including twice annual reporting of anonymized data from this system to the Gillings School’s Dean’s Council, to monitor climate and make improvements (Spring 2022).
  • Provided guidance to all chairs and program leaders on how to review course evaluations through an equity lens.
  • Established anti-racist and equity-focused work as part of performance expectations in annual reviews (Summer 2021-present).
  • Updated the Gillings School Appointment, Promotion and Tenure (APT) Manual to strengthen recognition for anti-racist and equity-focused research, practice, service, teaching and mentoring.
  • Focus Area 2: Require social justice and racial equity training at student orientation, as part of the curriculum and in the classroom

    Racism is a fundamental cause of racial and ethnic health disparities. Public health professionals must be able to recognize these determinants and apply principles of social justice and racial equity in developing and implementing interventions that help further the Gillings mission of eliminating health inequities. Students have voiced concerns that the curriculum at all levels would benefit from a greater focus on dismantling racism so that they are better-equipped to respond to the public health challenges facing the nation. They have also expressed how there should be significantly more content across departments and concentrations about how health inequities occur and how they may be eliminated. We have taken a multi-faceted approach to meet these challenges to sustain a culture of social justice and racial equity, such that these values are woven into the fabric of the Gillings School and define who we are.

    Goals

  • All students graduate with the ability to apply principles of social justice and racial equity in their public health work.
  • Content and skill development on anti-racism, social justice and health equity are more seamlessly integrated throughout and across curricula.
  • Discussions are led by faculty and TAs capable of effectively facilitating dialogue on challenging topics of racism and oppression.
  • How We Get There: Key Actions

  • Incorporate racial equity training into student orientation.
  • Strengthen COMPASS modules on inclusive excellence and anti-racism for incoming Gillings students.
  • Require all MPH applicants to respond to how they will contribute to anti-racism and inclusive excellence as students at Gillings.
  • Regularly review data from the Student Feedback and Equity Concerns reporting system. Provide training for faculty on how to review their courses with an anti-racism and inclusive excellence lens.
  • Facilitate regular meetings for faculty to support them in identifying and incorporating appropriate materials on anti-racism and health equity.
  • Develop new tracking and evaluation methods to assess annual faculty performance reviews on facilitating class discussion on equity topics.
  • Create an updated toolbox of additional anti-racism and inclusive excellence resources for faculty to implement in courses.
  • Strengthen practicum preparation and training for Gillings students on how to work with specific communities before they start their practicum.
  • What We’ve Accomplished

  • Required all Gillings MPH applicants to respond to how they will contribute to anti-racism as students at Gillings (Fall 2021-present).
  • Developed and piloted a 3-credit public health history with an equity lens elective (Fall 2021).
  • Conducted nine-hour workshops to over 70 Gillings instructors on how to work with materials in the course audit tool (Summer 2021).
  • Refreshed and strengthened COMPASS requirements to address anti-racism and inclusive excellence pieces for all incoming Gillings students (Summer 2021-present).
  • Developed a course audit tool to help faculty review their courses with an inclusive excellence and anti-racist lens (Spring 2021).
  • Provided guidance for chairs and program leaders on how to review course evaluations with an equity lens.
  • Incorporated facilitating class discussion on equity topics as part of the annual faculty performance review.
  • Reviewed and reported on the annual student survey on self-reported social justice and racial equity education competency attainment.
  • Focus Area 3: Improve our Approaches to Communicating Inclusive Excellence, Equity and Anti-Racism

    Since 2010, we have invested significant effort and resources into fulfilling a strategic goal to make the Gillings School more diverse and inclusive. Yet, the success of these efforts is contingent upon us communicating more effectively. Faculty, staff, students, prospective students, alumni and friends should clearly see what we are doing to move forward on our strategic diversity and inclusion goals, know how to provide input about ongoing efforts, hear periodic updates about the progress made toward achieving said goals, and feel invested in the efforts we are undertaking as a school. In short, communicating our inclusive excellence efforts well is a critical part of any plan to improve the climate at Gillings. Communications must be concerted and ongoing in order to foster and maintain a trusting environment within the school.

    Goals

  • Gillings stakeholders are aware of our IE plans, events, statements, key actions and IE outcomes.
  • Our visual environment communicates our commitment to inclusion.
  • How We Get There: Key Actions

  • Elevate the visibility of our inclusion statements, stories and other health equity efforts on our website, in print materials, on social media and via public gathering.
  • Regularly report and communicate on Inclusive Action Plan progress and accountability in leadership groups across Gillings.
  • Amplify the voices, research and work of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ faculty, staff and students.
  • Brand lectures and events that represent inclusive excellence.
  • Regularly update the Inclusive Excellence landing page and websites to make student resources, training, and events more accessible and visible.
  • Develop standards and principles for assessing and refreshing artwork throughout the Gillings School.
  • Display an interactive dashboard of diversity and anti-racism metrics, research, and activities at Gillings that are regularly updated in real time.
  • What We’ve Accomplished

  • Worked with communications experts for a deeper redesign and more effective inclusive excellence communications.
  • Created the Inclusive Excellence wordmark for regular inclusive excellence events and webinars.
  • Created the Inclusive Excellence landing page that provides updates on the Inclusive Excellence Action Plan, the student feedback and equity concerns form, inclusive excellence training, and inclusion resources.
  • Tracked and reported attendance at inclusive excellence events and webinars.
  • Established the Inclusive Excellence Council as a mechanism for information-sharing and coordination of inclusive excellence activities across Gillings.
  • Reconvened the Gillings Art Committee to evaluate the climate of inclusion throughout the Gillings School and beyond.
  • Distributed and reviewed an artwork survey to address the depiction of diversity in the Gillings School.
  • Required the Land Agreement, which acknowledges the Indigenous tribes and enslaved people that played a crucial role in the establishment of UNC, to be included in every Gillings course syllabus.
  • Focus Area 4: Advocate on Behalf of Students for Living Wages, Fairness in Hiring Practices, and Greater Transparency Regarding Employment Opportunities

    Economic inequities are health inequities. Students are seeking greater clarity from administrators on a host of issues affecting the Gillings student experience, including stress levels and general health and well-being. A climate of inclusive excellence is one that supports individual success in a manner that does not disproportionately advantage certain groups while simultaneously marginalizing others. In our pursuit of such a climate, we must demonstrate institutional commitment to understanding, monitoring and addressing the sources of economic inequities among students. Financial issues are not only a major source of stress and anxiety for many of our students, they limit the ability of students to access health resources and engage in healthy behaviors. As such, there are concrete steps we could take to reduce the prevalence of economic inequities across the Gillings School.

    Goals

  • Identify and act on causes of student stress and anxiety by enhancing monitoring of and response to student concerns in equity in hiring and pay as well as financial barriers to graduate education.
  • Our practices regarding student funding, employment, and support are equitable and fair.
  • We support the whole person (physical, mental, emotional spiritual health) using an equity lens.
  • How We Get There: Key Actions

  • Standardize and improve communication regarding department funding processes. Improve how we communicate with admitted students regarding their financial offers and costs of attendance.
  • Develop and make easily available on our website an infographic on financial realities of graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Assess and improve the availability of financial aid information on the website.
  • Require students to attend funding informational sessions at Open House and Admitted Student Day.
  • Create one internal job opportunity website and application mechanism and require all student employers at Gillings to post opportunities to that site.
  • Identify the authority at UNC or in the UNC-System that determines graduate student benefits with the aim of advocating for the addition of a dental benefit for graduate students.
  • Create more equitable hiring practices.
  • What We’ve Accomplished

  • Redeveloped funding documentation (Spring 2020).
  • Launched the Gillings student hiring portal (Spring 2020).
  • Monitored student experiences related to employment in annual student survey (Survey sent in April and May, 2021).
  • Created and implemented the Gillings Student Emergency Relief Fund.
  • Worked with the Gillings Business and Finance Departments to track and report student funding patterns.
  • Focus Area 5: Improve Recruitment And Retention Of Black, Latinx, Native American And Other Underrepresented Groups

    Working groups and other Gillings stakeholders have identified the need to develop specific recommendations around increasing the diversity of the Gillings community at large, including faculty, staff and students. Our Gillings School students, faculty and staff should better reflect the demographics of the U.S. in terms of the percentage of Black, Latinx, Native American and other underrepresented groups. Our goal is to develop a climate in which everyone feels welcomed, wanted and supported. Such a climate is characterized by the establishment of policies and practices that support the elimination of institutional barriers and achievement gaps. We are continually working towards devoting additional resources, effort and staff to attracting and retaining students, faculty and staff from historically and currently underrepresented backgrounds.

    Goals

  • Gillings School faculty, students and staff reflect the demographics of the U.S. in terms of number/percentage of Black, Latinx and Native American faculty, students and staff as well as other underrepresented groups.
  • How We Get There: Key Actions

  • Provide rigorous equity training for search committee chairs.
  • Submit an annual Inclusive Excellence report to the Dean.
  • Create mentoring plans for junior faculty and staff.
  • Review faculty data two times annually at the Dean’s Council and in other appropriate forums.
  • Prioritize equity in salary reviews and review regularly.
  • Implement holistic review of applicants, students, faculty and staff across programs.
  • What We’ve Accomplished

  • As of Fall 2021 Gillings student enrollment, 14.2% identify as Black or African American, 13.8% identify as Asian, 6.9% identify as Hispanic or Latinx, 0.2% identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.1% identify as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 9.4% are international students.
  • Strengthened anti-racist work in the APT manual (2020).
  • Included Inclusive Excellence goals/training/accomplishments as part of annual reviews.
  • Launched the Gillings Building our Community Together retention initiative for recently hired Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty and Carolina Postdocs.
  • Reviewed student data annually at the Dean’s Council and in other forums.
  • Dropped the GRE requirement for Gillings applicants.
  • Developed a new suite of recruitment practices to improve diversity of the student body.
  • Provided training on holistic review to all admissions committee members annually.
  • Focus Area 6: Dismantle Racism And Promote Equity Throughout Our Research Enterprise

    As the top public school of public health for NIH funding, we aim to prioritize funding for anti-racist research through our Gillings Innovation Labs (GILs). Our researchers create an inclusive lab environment that includes research opportunities for BIPOC students and helps PIs integrate anti-racism approaches in their proposals. The Gillings School’s anti-racist research portfolio is one of the strongest across the schools of public health in the United States, and we will continue to prioritize support and funding for BIPOC faculty and students in developing strong research portfolios, grants and publications.

    Goals

  • Maintain the Gillings School’s anti-racist research portfolio as one of the strongest across schools of public health in the U.S.
  • Gillings BIPOC faculty and students work in an environment that supports them in developing strong research portfolios and publications and receiving grants.
  • How We Get There: Key Actions

  • Assist principal investigators (PIs) with integrating anti-racism approaches in their proposals and research.
  • Provide PIs with skills on creating and maintaining an inclusive lab climate.
  • Foster faculty effectiveness on peer reviews.
  • Increase grant funding for BIPOC faculty.
  • Increase the numbers of BIPOC students engaged in paid research assistantships.
  • What We’ve Accomplished

  • Emphasized and prioritized funding for anti-racism research through our Fall 2020 Gillings Innovation Labs (GILs).
  • Increased the number of GILs led by BIPOC faculty.
  • Increased the number of faculty grants and publications with a major focus in anti-racism.
  • Awarded seven Gillings researchers funding through GILs for their approach to the pandemic and how they emphasized health equity as an integral part of their work.
  • Created the Gillings Health Equity Faculty Research Award that recognizes faculty who demonstrate excellence in research that has made a substantial impact on improved equitable outcomes or sustained reduction in inequities in a pressing public health issue.

  • Community Conversations with Inclusive Excellence (Sept. 14, 2021)

    Jeffrey Simms, MSPH, Interim Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Management; and Yesenia Merino, PhD, Director, Inclusive Excellence education and training, and other members of the Inclusive Excellence team discuss the Inclusive Excellence Action Plan with the first community conversation of the year.

    Watch the video

    The Joan Heckler Gillings Auditorium hosts classes, meetings and special events.

    Previous versions of the action plan

    Periodically, the Gillings community comes together to revisit and revise our strategies toward inclusive excellence. See our previous iterations of the action plan.