The Pivot with Adrial Bryan
Adrial Bryan seeks to expand inclusive excellence efforts at the Gillings School.
What’s your role in public health?
I am the Inclusive Excellence program coordinator for the Gillings School. I work to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion goals are being met. I also organize and facilitate training opportunities.
Can you describe your focus area in one sentence?
I’m here to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion for faculty, staff and students at Gillings.
I want to reach out to as many people as possible and ensure that they are having an equitable and engaging experience at UNC. This is true for faculty, staff and students. I’m not here to cater to one audience, but rather to help anyone who has questions or concerns about how their course is structured, the classes they are taking or how their role fits in at Gillings.
I also enjoy the focus on diversity. I am visually impaired, and I like working with people from various backgrounds to make sure that every person has an equitable experience and receives all the tools and resources they need to get the education they are seeking.
There are unique experiences that come with having a disability. I think it gives me an empathetic ear. When I was in school, I encountered challenges with getting accessible materials — making sure I had the tools I needed; making sure I had access to the online software that works with the assistive technology I use.
Working with organizations that promote inclusive excellence really helped me to access what I needed and also taught me some really good skills for being creative, flexible and analytical when coming up with solutions. That approach is a skill I bring to the table. Having had those experiences, I can better identify how to navigate around challenges and overcome obstacles so that people get what they need to excel.
I also have a background as an educator. Having been both a student and a professor informs how I see challenges from multiple angles, which lets me better serve the community here at Gillings.
What brought you to public health?
Prior to working at UNC-Chapel Hill, I taught German at Purdue University. There, I designed and led classroom curricula and initiatives. I also facilitated several student organizations within the School of Languages and Cultures at Purdue. These experiences gave me an appreciation for the numerous aspects involved in cultivating an engaging and equitable learning environment.
I’m originally from South Carolina. After eight years in Indiana, I was ready to get back to the Carolinas and be with my family. When I saw the opportunity to come to Chapel Hill, I thought it was an exciting chance to work in a new field.
While I came from foreign languages, I’m glad I got to learn about what health equity looks like in the practical sphere. I’ve learned so much through hearing the concerns of the people practicing public health and those who are receiving treatment.
How have you pivoted in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
COVID-19 revealed the deep disparities that exist within public health services, but it has also uncovered opportunities for growth and advancement in health equity.
One of the things I personally encountered was difficulty in getting a COVID-19 test, because so many of them were visual. It wasn’t until May of 2022, I think, that someone designed an accessible version of a COVID test. Before that, people with a visual impairment always had to get somebody to help them read it. But then, who wants to come near to you if you potentially have COVID? And people who are visually impaired can’t get in the car to get a drive-thru COVID test.
There were a lot of questions: How do I get a test? How can I find out what my results are? The experience revealed to me just how huge this particular inequity is — and that’s in addition to many other inequities we’ve seen across underserved communities. Those need to be highlighted so we can improve upon them.
Who are you when you’re at home?
I have a seeing eye dog, although he’s close to retirement. Hopefully, in the next six months to a year, a second pup will join the family! When I’m home, I enjoy hanging out with my dog and spending time with my friends and relatives.
I like learning about nature and wildlife, whether it’s through watching documentaries, going outside, or taking different classes put on by the zoo or the U.S. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. I also love crafting projects, like beading and knitting.
I really love going to the beach! In late spring through early fall, the beach is where I’m the happiest. And then, on rainy days, I cuddle up and binge Hulu and Disney+.