Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Critical Components of the College’s Success

Over the last few years, the college has worked hard to emphasize the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion as an important component to its success.

Initially a task force, the college formed its Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion four years ago as part of its official governance structure. Assistant Professor Oscar Garza serves as the current chair of the committee. Assistant Professor Oscar Garza

To further strengthen the college’s commitment and resources, L’Aurelle Johnson was named diversity director in July 2017 with responsibilities to direct and guide the college’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Johnson also assists with student recruitment efforts to promote diversity in the college’s graduate and professional programs.

 L’Aurelle Johnson“We’re becoming a more diverse state and nation, and as our graduates interact with patients, it’s becoming more and more common to interact with individuals who do not come from similar backgrounds as our own,” said Johnson. “We need to provide proper, personalized care despite any differences in background.”

Three years ago, the committee explored ways to gain a better understanding of intercultural awareness among faculty and staff.

“We had anecdotal evidence of some issues and it became clear that there was a lack of understanding of people’s differences,” said Garza. “We wanted a baseline understanding how people navigate these differences at work and life.”

The result was to implement a tool to assess intercultural competence—the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)—an online 50-item questionnaire that measures an individual’s capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities.

During the 2014–2015 academic year, the IDI was first made available to faculty and staff on the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. This year, the college made the IDI a mandatory tool for first-year students. The students will be assessed again at the end of their fourth year to evaluate progress made.

All students will receive the group feedback and results. If they choose, they have the option of receiving individual results and feedback from Johnson in her role as an IDI qualified administrator.

“The group and optional individual feedback is valuable in order to collectively move the class along the continuum in becoming more equitable, diverse and inclusive,” said Johnson.

According to Garza, as a larger group we tend to overestimate our ability to manage difference.

“Minnesota is more diverse than we give it credit for,” said Garza. “We need to prepare our students and practitioners with a patient-facing mission to work with the diversity that exists within our communities.”