As the Dean of the College of Science and Health (CSH), one of the key factors that attracted me to this role is the clear commitment by the University and College to promote a culture in which members of our campus community feel the freedom to share and advocate for their own cultures, unique talents, skills, and perspectives. Diversity is a core value at DePaul University. Diversity is an essential catalyst for scientific discovery, but to fully realize the potential for innovation, inclusivity must be cultivated at multiple levels to sufficiently garner ideas, perspectives, and experiences. A primary strategic priority of CSH is to expand, foster, and celebrate diversity with a focus on groups that are traditionally underrepresented in academia. In order to advance these efforts we must acknowledge the persistence of systemic, institutional, and historical factors that work against diversity, equity, and inclusion, and advocate and invest in transformative change. This is vitally important in addressing the disparities in science and health related outcomes that impair the full realization of excellence and advancement.
As a scientist and researcher, it has always been important to approach my work with a high degree of objectivity and an unbiased nature. However, as a female African American dean in the field of science and health, it is sometimes rather difficult to reconcile my objective nature as a scientist when there is notable bias and racism in the biomedical community. Despite many wonderful blessings, I cannot dismiss that throughout my personal, academic, and professional journey I too have been a part of environments in which I have felt sometimes unseen, unheard, unsupported and unwelcomed. This can be a tremendous barrier to success. Big picture, barriers such as this can impede scientific advancements, reduce the pipeline of diverse clinicians and scientists, and contribute to racial and ethnic health disparities. It is for these reasons, I have dedicated my life’s work to being an advocate for proactive antiracism approaches that promote the elimination of barriers that impede diversity, equity, inclusion.
2020 was a year of tremendous loss, challenges, change, and learning. As we have grappled with the harmful impact of COVID-19, we also have been reminded that racism unfortunately lingers in our hearts, minds, structures, and institutions. Creating and sustaining a climate that is diverse and inclusive takes conscious effort and honest reflection. There are a number of strategies and initiatives that CSH has proposed and begun implementing, to ensure we are promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion and an improved experience for all. The College of Science and Health integrates a focus of DEI into all aspects of the college. This webpage is just one representation of the Colleges intentional efforts to identify and highlight initiatives, activities, and efforts that support our sustained commitment to eliminating practices that perpetuate racism and inequities.
Stephanie T. Dance-Barnes, PhDDean, College of Science and HealthDePaul University