Increasing Diversity Efforts at RVU

by Jacqueline Powell, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology, and Daneka Souberbielle, Pre-Clinical Career Advisor

On June 2nd, RVUCOM’s student-led diversity committees in both CO and UT collaborated to host Rest in Power, a virtual memorial, to commemorate the losses and honor the lives of Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. With their deaths sparking national and global outrage against racial injustice and police brutality, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and ensuing protests supported by people of all races, ages, and genders have signaled a pressing shift in consciousness. As a society, we have reached a critical juncture with a dire need to create a new and better normal with equity, inclusion, and social justice serving as the foundational support. Together, we must begin to truly recognize, appreciate, honor, and understand that the great tapestry of humanity is designed by, and gains its beauty, strength, and resilience from, diversity.

Although RVU advocates diversity as one of our seven core values, previously expressed concerns regarding the lack thereof within the employee and student populace—as well as the lack of educational initiatives to promote a more inclusive campus—still persist. As we begin the new academic year and with an increased interest to advance our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we would like to reintroduce the RVU-SU Diversity and Inclusivity (D&I) Committee. Comprised of employees and students representing a cross-section of the Southern Utah campus, the committee’s overarching goal is to support the core value of diversity by exploring those types of issues and promoting a more inclusive campus climate.

As a leader in healthcare education, there remains a need for us to continue our focus on increasing awareness, knowledge, and training of culturally competent skills, attitude, and performance. As a committee, we want to provide strong support to our minority students and employees, as well as to our administration, faculty, staff, and student doctors as they strive to become more culturally proficient in interacting with and/or medically serving persons from diverse and underrepresented minority communities. Some additional aims and initiatives of the RVU-SU D&I Committee include educating the campus community about diversity and inclusivity through conducting campusspecific seminars, experiential activities, or trainings; supporting initiatives designed to promote a more diverse campus environment, such as providing recommendations and/or feedback when solicited; monitoring the overall campus climate with respect to diversity and inclusivity via collecting data from the yearly RVU Climate Surveys and aggregate bias incidence reports and sharing our findings with the Utah campus; and providing a safe forum for which faculty, staff, and students may share comments, refer questions, and make recommendations concerning diversity-inclusivity related policies, procedures on campus. The committee looks forward to working alongside the RVU University-level Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council which was established to further support a welcoming and inclusive culture.

Working in tandem with the RVU-SU Diversity & Inclusivity Committee, the student-led Roadrunner D&I Task Force (formerly the UT Student Diversity Committee) keeps the pulse on the campus climate from the student perspective and makes recommendations that continuously improve the campus experience, as does its sister group in Colorado. The Task Force also plans and implements the Days of Diversity series, four student-centered events aimed at increasing cultural competencies critical to healthcare providers and improving campus cohesion. Daneka Souberbielle will serve as the new advisor to this group, continuing the integral work Vie Van Noy, Director of Student Life, has led over the last three years.

Because awareness is the first element of effective inclusion initiatives, RVU has implemented a Bias Incident Report link, which can be found on the iNet. All reports will go to the Associate Dean of Students on the corresponding campus, who will then follow up with the appropriate individuals or departments. The form is open to all RVU faculty, staff, and students and is a vital tool that any individual can use in helping RVU fulfill its core value of diversity.

In the spirit of maintaining an inclusive environment, moving forward all RVU-SU D&I Committee meetings will be open to the entire community. We invite and welcome all students and employees to actively join us as we continue to promote an equitable and inclusive campus culture while also honoring, respecting, and celebrating our exceptional differences. For any general questions, suggestions, or concerns, please feel free to directly contact Dr. Powell at jpowell@rvu.edu.

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