Dear colleagues,

As we start looking to the coming academic year, we wanted to outline a few steps we are taking to further our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice agenda.  This message builds on our recent message, summarizing the observations from our pulse survey on the topic, and updates prior messages on our school-wide 11-point plan, updated annually.  The goal of this note is to outline some concrete next steps that we will be taking towards advancing our agenda, and then to lay the groundwork for subsequent more in-depth updates that we will be sending out over the course of the coming few months.

First, by way of framing, as per previous communication, we recognize we have far to go to create a community that has DEIJ at its center, that is embedded in all we do. We think, hope, that we have made important strides to this end in the past five years, but our goal is keep moving our work forward, to get better at being better in the area, guided by the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves in our new school-wide 2025, 2030 strategy map.

Looking forward

With that in mind, here is a summary of a set of new actions we will be launching in coming months, all aligned with our 11-point plan, with progress on that summarized below.

First, on foundations.

1.  Fundamentally we want to embed DEIJ in all aspects of central functioning of the school. There is much we can do on this, and the following are on our agenda in coming months. Reflecting the expanded scope of the DEIJ agenda, Dean Cozier’s title will formally include now Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice. We realize that any such change in title is, in and of itself, a very small recognition of the work to be done, but we suggest that the words here matter, and it is central to our aspirations to elevate equity and justice together with diversity and inclusion.  We will also further embed the work of DEIJ firmly within the Dean’s Office, with the Assistant Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Dean’s Office formally being charged with engaging around our DEIJ efforts, putting the work of DEIJ squarely at the heart of strategy for the school.   We will also move to making the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group (DIAG) a permanent committee of the school, aligned with the Research/Education/Practice committees. This will require that we formally change the school’s by-laws and develop a committee charter, but this seems well in line with our aspirations to have the DEIJ agenda at the center of all we do together.   We will also revisit composition of all of the school’s external committees, including our Dean’s Advisory Board and Alumni Leadership Council to ensure that the composition of these groups align with our commitment to equity.  We will open up and accept nominations to the Board from faculty, staff, and students.   And we will work with all units to ensure that each unit has their own DEIJ committees responsible for embedding the work of DEIJ throughout the school.

2.  Recognizing that one of the core aspects of our work should include a shared language and understanding of the issues at hand, we will be implementing mandatory training on DEIJ for all faculty and staff annually. This will launch in early July, with an email to everyone coming shortly. We realize, of course, that on-line training will never, in and of itself, lead us to where we want to be, but it is, we hope, a step towards a wholesale culture change where we all develop a shared vocabulary around creating a more diverse, inclusive, equitably, and just world.

Second, on each of Think. Teach. Do. and Administration.

3.  We have much to do to ensure our educational program aligns with our DEIJ values. To that end we shall launch a whole school programmatic review of our curriculum engaging all faculty to ensure it reflects our value of equity, with attention to the scholarship that is being elevated, and the scholarship that is being sidelined. We can start the systematic review of all course syllabi, followed then by an overarching curriculum review. We will also work towards implementing a required course for all MPH students focusing on the history of racial and ethnic inequities, the experiences of historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and on racism and structural forces that create anti-Blackness. Our goal is to have both of these completed by the end of 2021.

4.  On the research and scholarship side of what we do, we will, moving forward, lign all future faculty hiring investments with our DEIJ goals as a school. We will, in consultation with all unit heads, develop a plan going forward to make sure that we are on track to meeting our faculty diversity and inclusion goals.  We will also ensure that all our support of scholarship promotes our diversity goals, particularly in hiring new staff for the project/research, and identifying subcontractors.

5.  As we are developing our Activist Lab 2.0 we will work to align this work with our overall DEIJ goals, aiming to ensure that anti-racism and efforts to dismantle institutionalized marginalization permeate all our practice portfolio.

6.  On the administrative side of the house, we will align all future staff hiring investments with our diversity and inclusion goals as a school. We will develop a plan going forward to make sure that we are on track to meeting our staff diversity and inclusion goals. We will review all contracting (e.g., catering, events) with an equity lens in mind, so that a greater proportion of contracts go to minority-owned or businesses dedicated to public health equity, and to assure that School resources are spent in ways that can improve racial equity in our community. And last, but not least, we will double down on development efforts focused on promoting opportunities for scholarships for minority and underrepresented students.

We realize that each of the above embed multitudes, and it will take work to get to all of them.  Our goal is to start this work and to report back to the community as this work evolves.  Our vision is that Dean Cozier will report back on each of the Think. Teach. Do. Administration. pieces together, respectively, with Deans McClean, Sullivan, Andrade, and Lazic over the course of the semester. We also realize that words are easy, action is harder, and hope that all see this as part of our ongoing commitment, continuing work that we have been doing, but learning from the moment, and embedding the work of DEIJ further into the work of the school.

Looking back

Now, looking back a bit, we offer here a bit of a summary about what we have done, consistent with our 11-point plan.  Much of the below is familiar to those who have been with our community for years, but we summarize it here recognizing that our community refreshes itself with new members entering fairly frequently, so we thought this would be a useful opportunity to bring everyone up to speed on our work.

Much of our work today started in 2015, when we created the position of Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion to strengthen and expand efforts to implement an effective diversity and inclusion program at SPH that encompasses teaching, research, practice and management. In this role, Dean Cozier has been tasked with implementing a broad vision for the role of diversity in achieving institutional excellence and a strong track record in managing change and in building and supporting initiatives that promote diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.   It has been an honor to do this work together.

As an organizing frame for this work we articulated an 11-point plan to advance the school’s diversity and inclusion goals. This was informed by the 2012 Cultural Competence Education for Students in Medicine and Public Health report; feedback from a listening tour conducted with faculty, staff, and students by the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion; and the community-wide strategic thinking process that led to the development of our newly launched Strategy Map. We offer a thumbnail of work on each section, simply as a way of ensuring we all see the work we have done, and will do.

1.  Targeted teachings. We have had a series of teachings through multiple fora over the years, but we also announced in 2019 we would be launching online modules for mandatory diversity and inclusion trainings. This is now nearing completion, and as noted above, will be launched in the next few weeks.

2.  Effective teaching strategies to promote inclusion in the classroom. We have over the years offered numerous training opportunities for faculty and readily available resources on creating an inclusive learning environment. The Education team offers lunchtime workshops on topics such as navigating classroom dynamics, enhancing communication skills, and other issues. We have also recently our second biennial symposium on Teaching Public Health, with a lens on Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Justice.

3.  Formal programming. The Diversity and Inclusion seminar series has long been part of our regular suite of Signature Programs. Topics have included the renaming of historical monuments, how to have difficult conversations across the political spectrum, and practical ways to address difficult themes with children using picture books. Notably, we participated in the nationwide observance of the lasting impact of chattel slavery in America by hosting 400 Years of Inequality: Breaking the Cycle of Systemic Racism, a day-long forum featuring keynote addresses from Cornell William Brooks and Neera Tanden. We continued our observance with Black Reparations: The ARC of Justice, a discussion with Dr. William J Darity Jr., a leading scholar in history and economics. All Diversity and Inclusion Seminars are live-streamed and archived for later viewing by the SPH community and others.  As we move forward with our formal programming, we will be renaming all our Signature Programs as Public Health Conversations, and will not be labeling some programs as DEIJ and others as not, seeing DEIJ as infusing all we do.

4.  SPH Reads. Launched in 2016, “SPH Reads” is a ‘one school, one book’ reading program hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It aims to encourage critical thought and discussion amongst members of the SPH community. Throughout the year, there are opportunities to gather and talk about the issues presented in the book through lectures, seminars, and small discussion groups involving all members of the SPH community. The full reading list is available at SPH Reads. This year’s selection is There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration by Alum Ali Noorani (SPH’99). We see this program as becoming more and more part of our core programming, embedded in all we do.

5.  Language of inclusion. Much has happened on this front and in some ways this is now best represented by our transformation of our program to a DEIJ suite of activities, noted above. Rather than repeat much of what was previously published, we refer to the most recent DEIJ update for a summary on this.

6.  Affinity groups. Our student affinity groups continue to thrive and have become key elements of student governance. The Students of Color for Public Health (SCPH), the Queer Alliance (QA), and the International Students Organization (ISO) interact with the primary student body, the Student Senate, and with each other. Each group hosts a series of celebrations, talks, film screenings, and public service activities. Further details are here.

7.  Cultural events. We continue to host a range of cultural events for our students and our whole community, aiming to elevate issues of DEIJ and change the conversation to one that is always more inclusive. This year’s annual multicultural graduation ceremony was held, as with much else, via zoom, and it was as enjoyable an event as it has been in previous years.

8.  Discussion space. We have continued to offer multiple opportunities for discussion spaces. Centrally, our regular Racial Justice Talking Circles have continued virtually, creating space for our community to come together and have conversations about social and racial justice. Dean Cozier has been hosting regular coffee conversations, moved also to the digital space during this time. New, we have been having weekly virtual weekly Community Conversations with the school leadership since the beginning of the shift to remote working, teaching, and learning, covering a range of issues, including many of import for DEIJ.

9.  Mentoring of students. We have redoubled our effort on theBoston University School of Public Health Alumni Mentor Program (AMP) that aims to provide career and professional development to SPH graduate students. The program matches second year students with SPH alumni mentors who share similar academic and career interests. Students and alumni are matched primarily using professional area of interest and background along with any other relevant requested criteria that will help promote and support their identities.

10.  Pipeline efforts. We have invested substantial energy and resources in creating a clear pathway for us to be able to recruit a diverse group of faculty. We have formalized a Faculty Search Guidebook, to ensure that we consistently adhere to best practices during all faculty searches. We have invested substantial resources in flexible hiring processes, to allow us to make competitive offers to URM candidates at any time. All our search committee members receive anti-bias training. All faculty job postings now follow a template that includes required diversity indicator language that accurately reflects our goals, aspirations, and values regarding diversity and inclusion (separate and apart from the boiler plate legal language that appears at the end of job ads). We have streamlined the Interview Process to ensure that all searches represent the school’s commitment to recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty body.  We have significantly improved the competitiveness of our offers to new faculty hires. Every faculty member recruited to SPH since January 2015 has received a startup package that includes discretionary funds, which has contributed to our high yield of new hires.   And, well ahead of potential faculty, our select scholars program, partners with HBCUs, HSI’s and other undergraduate institutions to enroll students interested in pursuing public health and our preferred partners program provides scholarship support to employees of organizations who wish to pursue a graduate degree or engage in continuing professional education through our office of lifelong learning.

11.  Faculty development.  We have a full suite of programs aimed to ensure that all our faculty can thrive, with a particular focus on creating a supportive environment for URM faculty. This includes our early career faculty program, our mid-career faculty leadership program, our under-represented racial and ethnic groups leadership program, our women’s leadership program, grant writing workshops, and faculty mentoring program.  In addition, we have built an infrastructure to support all faculty, to ensure that all faculty have the best possible work environment, including clarity through our faculty handbook, a pilot award program, annual discretionary funds for all faculty, a sabbatical program, and a phased-retirement program.

To conclude on the note we started, we are well aware that we have far to go, and we can do ever better. Our efforts at diversity and inclusion are not a destination, they are a journey, and one on which the school will be always engaged.  These newer changes represent an evolution in our work, building on what we have done for the past several.  As our work evolves in the coming year, as some efforts that we started are now simply part of “how we do things”, we will recast our 11-point plan to focus on emerging areas, and shall articulate next year a new plan to guide us forward in coming years.

As always, thank you to the entire community for engaging on this journey, for all you to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.


Sandro and Yvette

Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH
Dean, Robert A Knox Professor

Yvette Cozier
Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

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