Inclusive Excellence Action Plan
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 2021 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.
Please contact Kristine Villaflor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.