The UVA School of Nursing was one of 43 institutions across the country awarded the 2019 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The HEED Award is the only national honor that recognizes diversity and inclusion efforts among American institutions of higher education focused on the health professions.
It's the second year in a row the School earned the distinction for its "outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion."
"We're honored to earn this distinction," said Dean Pam Cipriano, "but acknowledge, too, that we must continue to create lasting changes that reflect an intense commitment to diversity and inclusion. Everything we do - from recruitment to advising, mentoring to curricular content - must be examined through this important lens so that it becomes second nature. Thanks to the work of many, we’ve made progress and will continue to cultivate an environment that celebrates our differences and welcomes a rich variety of perspectives, beliefs, experiences, and people.”
Since the 2014 arrival of Susan Kools, associate dean for diversity and inclusion and founder of the Inclusion, Diversity & Excellence Achievement (IDEA) initiative, has worked to strengthen the inclusivity of all processes, including recruitment, admissions, mentoring, advising, and teaching, along with faculty recruitment and hiring.
There are few processes and programs at the School of Nursing that haven’t been touched by IDEA, particularly in the area of students mentoring and support. Over the past nearly half-dozen years, Kools and her team established advisory groups for underrepresented students, trained faculty and staff allies to support underrepresented and minority students as they navigate predominantly white, heterosexual environments, and conducted exhaustive reviews of undergraduate and graduate curricula to expose unintentional bias and train faculty in more inclusive teaching practices. Kools also established a more inclusive recruitment model, cultivated holistic admissions standards, and consistently modeled and championed cultural competence in students across the board.
As a result, nearly 100 percent of students across all racial and ethnic group categories ultimately graduate, and a growing array of minority and other students under-represented in nursing are applying and accepting admission at UVA. For 2019, 28 percent of enrolled nursing students are from underrepresented and minority backgrounds and some 13 percent are male.
In fall 2018, with partner John Gates, former associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Kools organized an eight-week, all-University Institutional Equity Initiative, which gathered dozens, including 20 nursing faculty, engineering faculty, UVA diversity professionals, clinicians, and UVA, Albemarle, and Charlottesville police officers around topics of inclusion, equity, and quality. Through winter 2018 and spring 2019, those lessons will be shared with the balance of faculty and staff through regular trainings and equity projects developed during the institute.
She and her team have also been instrumental in organizing diversity events for students, faculty, and staff, like the annual #HoosInclusive campaign, a "Pizza and Pronouns" party in honor of International Pronouns Day, and hosted speakers, including USC Race and Equity Institute director Shaun Harper and black graduates of a segregated LPN program to address the community.
IDEA has even touched the School’s physical spaces and the way it represents nursing and nursing history. A Jefferson Trust-funded initiative – titled “Hidden Nurses” – will enable Kools and fellow grantee and history center director Barbra Mann Wall to diversify the public displays to tell a broader, more inclusive story of UVA-educated nurses, as well as nursing more broadly. Early projects have celebrated UVA's LPN graduates and a project delving into the history of Filipino nurses in Hampton Roads, Va.
The School continues its focus on recruitment and retention of faculty members from diverse backgrounds, an effort that’s informed everything from its inclusivity statement in position descriptions and advertising strategies to its deepening engagement with UVA graduate nursing students of color who are urged to consider teaching and research careers at UVA.
“We continue to transform the culture of our nursing school to ensure a compassionate, respectful, and inclusive community that fosters welcoming environments to learn and work," says Kools. "Our commitment has only become stronger through the active engagement of all our students, scholars, and staff.”
Each year, INSIGHT Into Diversity receives nominations from colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada that seek to illustrate their commitment to broadening diversity through teaching, mentoring, hiring initiatives, student recruitment, retention and outreach. Editorial board members and a HEED Award advisory board review and evaluate all applications for the award, determining those institutions that earn the distinction. The Health Professions HEED Award is the only national award honoring health professions institutions with a core focus on diversity and inclusion.