a. Major 2021 Initiatives
In 2021, SPH-B continued its commitment to inclusion via programming, curriculum, stakeholder outreach, and research. For example, with our Distinguished Colloquium Speaker Series, we continued to highlight health equity and racism and educate our stakeholders on these topics thanks to such speakers as Dr. Michelle Williams (Dean of Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) and Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith (Dean and Professor of Medicine for the College of Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science). Our Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Public Health Practice hosted several webinars to educate the public and IU students on the intersections of health, mental wellness, identity, and ability status (e.g., Fiercely Resilient: Centering Healing and Wellness in the Face of Sexual Trauma in April 2021 and Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion: A SPH-B Virtual Brown Bag in October 2021).
Under the charge of Dean David Allison, faculty member Dr. Maresa Murray convened the school's first SPH-B Diversity Task Force meeting in June 2021. This task force is chaired by Dean's Alliance member Marty Lemert and is charged with providing recommendations for SPH-B as it pursues a research-based approach to awareness of racism and violence as public health issues. The task force will convene again in 2022. Additionally, this past fall, Mr. Rory James and Dr. Murray led the efforts to introduce a new academic minor incorporating courses from all five SPH-B departments, allowing undergraduate and doctoral students to develop a multidisciplinary approach to health equity, social justice, and research.
In terms of research and faculty accolades, Dr. Priscilla Barnes is co-leading an initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue promotion of brain health awareness in African Americans aged 45 years and older. Drs. Debby Herbenick and William Yarber were named among "50 Distinguished Sexual and Gender Health Revolutionaries" by the Program in Human Sexuality at University of Minnesota for their research in sexuality and gender identity. Dr. Patricia Silveyra's involvement with SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) included mentoring visiting URM summer student Keishla Colon Montanez, who presented her work at SACNAS and won a scholarship. Dr. Silveyra also served as a panelist at the SACNAS conference session "Advice from Early Career Faculty of Color" (October 2021). Dr. Javier Rojo's Research for Undergraduates Summer Institute of Statistics at Oregon State University, or RUSIS@OSU, which mentors URM students in STEM, ran virtually during the summer of 2021, and has been approved for new funding at IU for the coming year.
Lilian Golzarri-Arroyo, a biostatistician at the school's Biostatistics Consulting Center, won the 2021 Latino Faculty and Staff–Staff Award for her exemplary professional work and contributions to creating a positive campus environment. Paul Levy (MPH '21) won the 2021 Latino Faculty and Staff Graduate Student Award. Lastly, stewards of IU's Racial Justice Research Fund recently named SPH-B faculty members Priscilla Barnes, Angela Chow, Debra Herbenick, and Karo Omodior recipients of Racial Justice Research Fund Awards to support research that will help to better equip individuals, institutions, and communities to advance racial justice and equity.
b. SPH-B DEI Investments
Our diversity initiatives are exemplified in three critical areas:
- Fiscal/Budgetary. E.g., SPH-B programming, personnel, hires
- Time. E.g., recruiting efforts, student advising, program planning
- Talent/Expertise. E.g., professional development
SPH-B continues to earmark over $100,000 for scholarship funds for the Hudson & Holland Scholars Program, demonstrating the school's commitment to supporting URM students. Additionally, Dean Allison and members of the Dean's Alliance created a fund for the Equity and Justice as Public Health Issues Scholarship supporting SPH-B students "who are studying or have demonstrated an interest in public health topics focusing on stigmatization, stress, violence prevention, and underrepresentation in minority and vulnerable populations." In 2021, two students received support from the fund, and we will invite applications for the next round in February 2022. SPH-B also co-sponsors campus, community, and state programs such as the African American Arts Institute and its recent Potpourri of the Arts; Graduate Student Mixers with the College of Arts & Sciences; and the 2021 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair.
Dr. Doug Landsittel, Department of Epidemiology chair, serves as co-lead for data management with the Coordinating and Evaluation Center (CEC) for the NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) Program. Funded by a U24 mechanism with Morehouse School of Medicine as the lead institution, the CEC assesses the impact of institutional culture change and promotes inclusion.
Lastly, SPH-B staff/faculty continue to focus on recruiting and hiring URM faculty and scholars, highlighting why SPH-B is a great place for underrepresented faculty and staff to hone their talent.
SPH-B has embarked on several opportunities related to recruitment and climate. First, in the summer and fall of 2021, we interviewed and vetted several agencies and consultant groups who could potentially perform a climate assessment for our school. Below are a few bulleted updates outlining our progress. The Center for Survey Research (CSR), who will assist in coordinating this effort, has provided feedback on our plan, slightly amending our proposed timeline.
- January 2022: Establish agreement between CSR and SPH-B.
- January 2022: Adapt Rankin & Associates instrument to include 2018 SPH-B climate survey questions and take into consideration other initiatives (e.g., Diversity Task Force, SEA Change, and strategic planning). Executive Associate Dean Dr. Carrie Docherty is coordinating the recruitment of a working/advisory committee consisting of faculty, staff, and students. They will adapt the 2018 SPH-B climate survey to include the recently purchased Rankin & Associates questionnaire.
- February 28, 2022: Questionnaire finalized, approved, and ready for programming by CSR.
- March 2022 (after spring break): CSR launches survey.
- May 2022 (late May): CSR will provide summary of methodology, descriptive statistics findings, frequency tables of numeric items, and a clean dataset. An independent organization will provide supplemental analysis.
Additionally, this past fall, SPH-B submitted a letter of intent to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to become part of their pilot program for biomedical and health research organizations through their "SEA Change" program. SEA Change is a comprehensive initiative from AAAS that implements a proven self-assessment process to effect sustainable change regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEMM at U.S. institutions of higher education. We are proud to report that SPH-B was accepted into the SEA Change Biomedicine Bronze Award Pilot, and several of our administrators, faculty, and staff participated in the November onboarding meeting. The pilot program involves a 12-month commitment from SPH-B stakeholders and institutional stakeholders.
Throughout 2021, SPH-B leadership continued to stress the importance of the recruitment and retention of faculty – especially members from underrepresented populations. After the announcement of President Whitten's seven-year Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative (which will focus on hiring professors from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education), Dean Allison convened a meeting with SPH-B personnel so we could strategize and coordinate the school's faculty recruitment efforts. Additionally, staffers and department chairs have used social media outlets (i.e., LinkedIn), word-of-mouth, and professional organizations to boost our faculty recruiting.
In October, the school sent a delegation to the 2021 American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo in Denver, Colorado, to recruit and engage prospective graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty. Additionally, SPH-B is currently reviewing the school's organizational structure and considering new roles that will further our DEI agenda (e.g., Dean's Administrative Fellow for Diversity, Inclusion, and Organizational Climate). Finally, with the addition of two new doctoral programs – Ph.D. in Biostatistics (established in 2021) and Ph.D. in Nutrition Science (schedule to commence in 2022) – SPH-B can become a leader in establishing a pipeline of URM students into these disciplines.
Some challenges we are aware of in the areas of recruitment, retention, and climate follow.
- The four largest impediments for diverse faculty recruitment are:
- Low Quality Laboratories. This is a major impediment to serious scientists who may wish to join our school.
- Distance from Hub of Medical School, CTSI, Clinical Trial Facilities, Core Labs, and Health Science Collaborators.
- High Teaching Load Expectation. This is also a major source of hesitancy among serious scientists.
- Perceived Racism, Sexual and Gender Minority Discrimination, and Non-Progressive Reproductive Rights Politics in State.
- For Students:
- Scholarships/Fellowships/Student Funding. While we have made strides in identifying and/or creating new scholarships (i.e., Equity and Justice as Public Health Issues Scholarship), there remains unmet need for some of our students. Many of our students and their families are navigating the pandemic and the resulting unemployment crisis, etc. We have many SPH-B students in need of emergency funding, and they have sought support from our Student Services Division and Office of Student Diversity & Inclusion (OSDI). Another challenge our personnel have encountered is that while some of our students receive four-year scholarships from OVPDEMA scholarship programs (i.e., Groups, 21st Century Scholars), they have difficulty securing funding for summer courses, as a majority of funding is designated for fall and spring semesters. This is also true for our internal scholarships and SPH-B donor-based scholarships. Difficulty securing funding impacts student persistence and retention. Additionally, many external scholarships and University Graduate School fellowships are designated for domestic URM students. While we recognize the need and historical importance of funding opportunities for these populations, funding graduate education is a challenge for some of our international applicants and current students.
- Graduate Student Recruitment. As we prepare for our inaugural cohorts for the Ph.D. in Biostatistics and Ph.D. in Nutrition Science programs, we recognize the challenges in specifically recruiting African Americans, Latinx, and Indigenous/Native American students into these programs. As with any new program, we are strategizing on best practices, identifying venues and institutions where we can recruit (i.e., minority-serving institutions [MSIs], conferences), and discussing branding. Our Department of Epidemiology has held several meetings with graduate faculty, SPH-B recruiting staff, and OSDI to discuss the challenges involved.
Like our previous reports, one measure we are currently undertaking to assess our progress in faculty recruitment and retention is tracking SPH-B faculty hiring trends over the last 10 years. We have specifically started tracking our representation of URM faculty from 2010 to the present. This will be an ongoing priority for years to come. We celebrate our accomplishments and look to capitalize on these efforts in the future. SPH-B is a school that encompasses STEM disciplines, health sciences, and behavioral sciences. The school uses the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) definition of underrepresented minorities (American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Pacific Islander) when focusing on inclusive hiring pools and faculty recruitment. A key part of identifying our progress is to compare our representation to national trends and SPH-B faculty representation to other CEPH-accredited Schools of Public Health. The Executive Associate Dean and the Director of Human Resources are accountable for revising search and screen procedural checklists for greater awareness of the importance of seeking a diverse applicant pool.
Moreover, our participation in SEA Change requires that we identify specific metrics and areas we want to assess regarding our school’s climate. This involves getting input from our core team and reviewing data from institutional reporting (Bloomington campus). Thus, it is a priority that we secure a vendor that can perform our climate assessment so that we have both quantitative and qualitative data to support our DEI goals.
The greatest need is to recruit more leading-edge public health science faculty from diverse backgrounds. They will provide the "capillary pressure" that will draw the student and postdoc pipeline in. To do so, we need:
- Help providing adequate laboratories to potential recruits and existing faculty.
- More active and robust interactions with the School of Medicine.
SPH-B welcomes Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion (OVPDI) representatives to participate in our faculty searches. We have previously had candidates meet with VP John Nieto Philip, and Dr. Lem Watson and other campus partners are assisting with this process, as well. Some of our candidates – particularly those who are URM – have questions relating to campus and community relations, support for faculty of color, and other resources. Having a representative from OVPDI allows faculty candidates to get a perspective from someone not affiliated with SPH-B.