In this podcast, we talked to Dr. Juliana Mosley-Williams, the Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). She talks to us about the DEI Committee, and how important it is to have an organization like that on campus.
I am Juliana Mosley-Williams and I am Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Our general counsel lovingly calls me SADEI, I think is the acronym he came up for it. My role was fairly new; it started in November 2020, of course, in the middle of the pandemic.
Q: Can you please explain what the DEI Committee is and what its role is at Salus?
A: The committee actually precedes me — it was started, I believe in January 2019. These committees, as they are formed at a lot of higher ed institutions, basically exist to promote awareness, equity, dignity, respect, and really the point is to make sure that there is a focus on the area of it being important and pulling folks together. The committee did a lot of work before I arrived; my job is owed to the committee. They went to the president and said, we need someone who is going to do this full time. It can't just be the work of a committee where they all have other jobs. It's clear that the work that they've been doing left a huge foundation.
Q: Why is it important to have this type of committee on campus?
A: The importance of the committee and one of the reasons we're seeing them not just on college campuses, but even in corporate America everybody had a DEI now if they didn't have one before, is because it does bring together varied voices and perspectives and representation. I am one person. And so the thought that I could ever do all of this work by myself, honestly, is a fallacy. It doesn't even go with the term diversity, right? The fact that we can have people come together from various perspectives, diverse backgrounds, representing different areas of the University is really important. It gives them the opportunity, especially now that we've shifted the focus of this committee, because now that I'm here to do the operational work, the committee is really going to be more advisory strategic in nature, which means that they'll be looking at the needs of our campus community.
How do we then align our priorities and our goals in order to meet those needs, providing hopefully a more enriching and positively impactful experience for everyone within our communities? Secondly, it's also important because it raises the level of significance and intentionality of this work of why it's important. I like to tell people diversity always exists. Diversity is really never our issue. It's always present. I don't care if you put together a room full of folks that all look alike, guess what? It's probably one of the most diverse environments you'll ever be in, but it's the inclusion and the equity. We have to make that a priority. We have to be intentional. We have to make sure that it is truly interwoven into every facet of our university life.
Q: How can the Salus community be proactive to promote this diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in the clinics?
A: What I need people to do, or what I would love people to do honestly, is join me in adopting a cultural humility framework or mindset. Cultural humility is really a nice concept that was developed actually more than 20 years ago, but it's only gained popularity I think outside of the area where we've developed in the last maybe six or seven years. But it charges us to do something. The first is to be lifelong learners, always be open to learning. And that a lot of that learning is not just about others, but there is a significant focus on self. On being self-critical and self-evaluative. The importance of that is I can learn about as many different people that might exist on this planet, but the reality is folks are always changing. Culture is always changing, but the one thing that I can learn really well and how to be the master of is me.
If I know who I am, my identity helps lead to my biases, how those biases influence my world view and my perspective, and how it might impact how I deal with other people. I then at a minimum can be much more critical of what I'm doing, what I'm saying, maybe how to be more sensitive, how to be more humble, change those perspectives so that hopefully I am treating people with respect. The second thing is it's going to cause me to look for ways to shift the power imbalance. We know that power exists in every, what I call, creature relationship. I mean, we can put a cat, a dog, and a mouse in the same room and we will see power play out. How do we make sure that we make people feel like they have an equal voice, that their voice, their opinion matters?
Specifically, with us being a healthcare institution, we have to think about patients and our patients need to understand that they aren't at the bottom of the ladder. When our patients and our clients are present with our faculty, our students and our clinicians, they need to come into the door understanding that their role is very important. Our doctors, our providers, our clinicians can't make the diagnosis, can't come up with treatment plans if the patients and clients aren't communicating to them what's going on. And so we have to find the ways to do that, to shift those power imbalances. Thirdly, cultural humility asks that we have a mindset of partnership, of advocacy for others, and ultimately institutional accountability or responsibility. Just imagine if all of us are thinking about ways that we could partner, ways that we can advocate, ways that we can say Salus University needs to do what it says it's going to do. How much better we will be? If everybody adopts this framework, it allows us all to work together, at least from one common goal or mission that I believe will really unify the campus community in a different way.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I think the biggest thing that I want people to note is please don't look for me to be the one that drives everything that we do in DEI. It cannot fall on one person. Being in this role means that in many ways I might be content expert to some extent. But honestly, I'm a great coach. So, my job, as I see it, is to lead our team. To maybe come up with the plays, what is it that we need to do and focus on. But I need everybody do their part. No team wins a game if everybody does not actively engage in their role. I might be the overseer. I might be the coach, but I can't be solely responsible for all of the work. Everybody has to see this as being critically important and wanting to partake and do their part in a way that is going to make their own personal experience in life better and ultimately for everybody in our community. And let's be honest, if there's no other reason you're here, it's got to be because you buy into the mission of this institution, whether you are a student, faculty, or a staff member, you wouldn't be here if you didn't buy into the mission, because if you didn't, you would go somewhere else. And so since you're here, then it would be really helpful if we all make this critical to our experience.
To learn more about the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee visit salus.edu/DEI.