Dear Colleagues:

Happy New Year. It has been a just over a year since we presented our 11-point plan towards excellence on diversity and inclusion at the School of Public Health. We now present a summary of what we have accomplished over the past year, and how we plan to build upon these accomplishments as we look forward to 2017.

1. Targeted Teachings

We created several opportunities to begin the conversation regarding bias and privilege at SPH. In March, members of the Governing Council (SPH chairs, deans, and directors), along with faculty and administrators in the Department of Medicine, participated in a four-hour bias training session facilitated by Howard Ross, the CEO of Cook Ross and the author of Everyday BiasWe continued this effort in October and November with four sessions facilitated by Stacy Blake-Beard, an organizational psychologist and professor at Simmons College. Sessions were attended by more than 130 faculty and staff, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Additional sessions are being planned for winter/spring 2017; dates, times, and locations will be announced shortly. During August orientation, Professor Godley and I also led incoming MPH and doctoral students in a session aimed at introducing students to the topics of race, class, and social justice. Past sessions have been scheduled for 90 minutes; this year we increased the time to three hours to allow for greater engagement and discussion, including remarks from Assistant Provost and Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore. We will continue to refine this session to maximize the learning potential for students.

2. Effective Teaching Strategies to Promote Inclusion in the Classroom

The core curriculum faculty have done an admirable job of productively incorporating discussion of difficult topics in the classroom. I will meet with faculty in January to review what was successful, and to devise strategies and resources for continued improvement. Further, drawing upon feedback from the bias training sessions for faculty and staff, as well as recent political events, we are working to provide additional trainings and seminars aimed at facilitating difficult conversations, both within the classroom and throughout SPH. Finally, in response to the recent election and the increase in hate-crimes nationally, the Activist Lab has designed a Bystander Intervention training for the SPH community to be offered after intersession.

3. Diversity and Inclusion Seminar Series

Last April, we launched our Diversity and Inclusion Seminar Series (DISS) with a talk by Abdul El-Sayed, health commissioner of the City of Detroit, about the public health challenges facing that city. Lydia Villa-Komaroff opened the fall semester with a lecture highlighting the neuroscientific basis of bias, followed by Lynda Clayton and W. Michael Byrd, authors of An American Health Dilemma, Volumes I and II (2000), who presented the historical basis of health disparities. In September we also introduced “First Person,” programming for a smaller audience which allows for more intimate, in-depth conversation with experts. Our inaugural presenter was Reverend Gilbert Caldwell, producer and co-star of the documentary From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet? chronicling the civil rights and gay rights movements and their overlap. The DISS and “First Person” series will continue into 2017 with a visit from human rights lawyer Maurice Tomlinson and the screening of the documentary The Abominable Crime (organized in partnership with the Sex, Sexuality, and Gender Certificate). In February we will host the family of Henrietta Lacks as part of the school’s “SPH Reads” program (see below).

4. SPH Reads

This fall we initiated the first “one school, one book” effort at SPH called “SPH Reads.” This year’s book selection is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. All incoming SPH (first-year) students were mailed a copy of the book over the summer (with library copies and a limited number of books made available for returning students). Book discussions for first-year MPH and doctoral students were begun during orientation. Core instructors have worked to incorporate the book into classroom discussions where appropriate. During their visit to the school in October, Clayton and Byrd (See Diversity and Inclusion Seminar Series, above) led a luncheon book discussion for core instructors and select others. In November, Mahogany Price and Jennifer Beard facilitated the first of several book discussions for students; additional discussions will be scheduled for the spring semester. In addition, I led a book discussion with members of the Activist Lab and other SPH staff. Finally, on February 21, 2017, we will host the family of Henrietta Lacks as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Seminar Series.

5. Language of Inclusion

During the April 2016 School Assembly, Julia Lanham (Career Services) and Professor Ulrike Boehmer gave a presentation on the use of preferred gender pronouns. We have also attempted to respond to world events by providing discussion spaces for the SPH community. Discussions have been held in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting (June), and most recently following the presidential election (November); a second separate discussion was held for international students (December). We also hosted a discussion space for those who voted for Donald Trump (“I Voted for Trump and That Is Okay: Open Discussion for Donald Trump Supporters”). We will continue to schedule election-related sessions into the New Year.

6. Affinity Groups

This fall saw the creation of the Committee for Community Development for SPH staff. Overseen by Dean Susan Foster, Krissy Zambouras (Director of People Services), and myself, this committee’s goal is to build a stronger sense of community among SPH staff members. The committee organized the Fall Festival (November) and, in conjunction with the Activist Lab, the Lunch and Learn “Life on Albany Street” event, followed by a Gallery Walk hosted by the Activist Lab. The Life on Albany Committee, formed in response to the success of the above-mentioned Lunch and Learn, will meet monthly to discuss issues on Albany, primarily around homelessness and substance use. The goal of this group will be to activate our institutional response to these issues, and to formulate actions based on what was learned regarding safety and engagement from the Lunch and Learn panelists. Finally, we have expanded the meeting times of the Racial Justice Talking Circle (RJTC) from twice monthly to weekly (every other Tuesday, 5-6 p.m., and every other Thursday, 1-2 p.m.).  In the spring, we will begin to offer professional skill-building workshops during the one of the Tuesday RJTC sessions.

7. Cultural Events

SPH students were able to participate in the local cultural art offerings, as well as create their own brand of SPH events. In September, several SPH students attended Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education at the American Repertory Theater. The solo show from actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith outlines the civil rights crisis currently erupting at the intersection between America’s education system and its mass incarceration epidemic. In October, the SPH Student Senate invited the SPH community to share tales of public health, specifically the moments when people discovered their personal public health inspiration. In November, the Department of Community Health Sciences, the BUSPH LGBTQ+ Alliance, and the Students of Color of Public Health coordinated the screening of 13th, a documentary film by Ava DuVernay about the modern manifestation of the 13th constitutional amendment, which abolished slavery except for those “punished for crime.” More recently, the International Student Organization sponsored their Annual Cultural Show, the largest event hosted at SPH each fall. The event celebrates the diversity of students, faculty, and staff and raises money for a public health cause. This year ticket proceeds were donated to UNICEF to help Syrian children. We are always soliciting ideas and suggestions for ways to celebrate a wide range of cultural diversity at SPH.

8. Online Discussion Space

We have not taken substantial steps in this area but will continue to explore the logistics and feasibility of creating an online discussion space for SPH.

9. Mentoring of Students

The SPH Alumni Mentoring Program (StAMP) has been formally launched (December). As this program matures, we hope to include an element for mentoring of URM students and students from other marginalized groups.

10. Pipeline Efforts

Dean Sullivan has recently launched the Select Scholars program, which seeks to introduce college students to SPH. Similar to the current BU “4+1,” the program offers conditional admission to the MPH program upon successful completion of SPH classes and completion of undergraduate studies. Several historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and institutions that serve Latinx and Native American students will be targeted through this mechanism. On July 8, Boston Area Health Education Center (BAHEC) brought more than 100 high students to Hiebert Lounge as part of their Health Career Expo. The goal of the expo is for students to meet and interact with medical campus faculty, clinicians, allied health professionals, and graduate students regarding educational and career choices. Several MPH students participated in this event, and we will continue to encourage participation in this and similar events. Another program, “New Faces in Public Health,” also brought area high school students to campus. On December 7, approximately 50 students from the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers participated in an Activist Lab-sponsored program presented by Michael Rich of Children Hospital’s Center on media and child effects of the use of electronics, especially social media, on the well-being of adolescents. The students then attended the practicum poster presentation, where they had the opportunity to interact with SPH students and learn about public health and possible careers. Finally, on October 30, Dean Cox, Stern Chamblain (Career Services), several MPH students, and Dean Cozier welcomed nearly 30 members of the Brothers United, a group of URM BU undergraduates, to the Medical Campus for food and conversation regarding career choices and mentorship. This was the first of what we hope will be many interactions with URM undergraduate student organizations. At our invitation, both Brothers United and several members of Sisters United attended the Barkley Holiday Party on December 14.

11. Underrepresented Faculty/Faculty Development

Over the last year, I have worked jointly with Emelia Benjamin (Department of Medicine, Epidemiology), Rafael Ortega (School of Medicine), and Larry Dunham (School of Dental Medicine) to help institutionalize bias training for search committees across the Medical Campus. This will provide greater flexibility and efficiency for training search committees as the need arises. The Dean’s Office has also made available funds for several opportunity hires of URM faculty, and the School has made competitive offers to individuals which for personal reasons (e.g. opportunity to go to an institution closer to family) were not accepted. Nevertheless, we will continue to pursue top candidates to join the faculty at SPH. Under the leadership of Professor Lisa Fredman, director of faculty development, the Junior Faculty Community Group was launched earlier this year. The group meets monthly to learn and discuss the process and strategies for successful faculty advancement. The Junior Faculty Community Group is an important step towards ensuring we maximize opportunities for success for all faculty, by making sure that all our promotion processes are transparent and fair. Finally, in January, Dean McClean and I will contact current PIs of NIH-funded grants to inform them of their eligibility for diversity supplements. We will also hold information sessions to encourage applying for diversity supplements, including a February Q&A with P. Kay Lund, director of the Division of Biomedical Research Workforce, Office of Extramural Programs, Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health.

While much has been accomplished in the past year, there remains much to be done. We believe that our efforts to maximize diversity and inclusion at the school will always be ongoing. This effort has no end date, and we expect that the activities that we have laid out will continue to evolve. We look forward to the continued engagement of the SPH community in these activities during the upcoming year, and as always, welcome your feedback and thoughts.

Warm regards,

Yvette Cozier, MPH, DSc
Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion

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