College of Nursing building inclusive excellence on multiple fronts

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Finding ways to bring more diversity, equity and inclusion into the WSU College of Nursing is a shared goal of our college community.

That work took root last year despite the challenges of the pandemic. In the current academic year, a handful of initiatives will continue to drive it forward.

This fall, faculty, staff and students will get to hear again from G. Rumay Alexander, professor of nursing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a scholar-in-residence at the American Nurses Association where she focuses on systemic racism in the nursing profession. Alexander, our Cleveland Visiting Scholar last year, will talk to faculty this week about defining, applying and assessing equity in nursing education. Then she’ll be back in November to conduct a session for students. Both sessions will be held virtually via Zoom.

Next, the College of Nursing will hire a new faculty member who will focus on health equity for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people. The college submitted a successful proposal to include this position in a 2022 faculty cluster hire initiative by WSU. Five new faculty will be hired throughout the university to focus on health inequities and health justice for marginalized communities. The goal is to seek scholars who will contribute to work in that area and help lead institutional transformation.

“The College of Nursing is fortunate to have our proposal selected for this important cluster hire initiative,” said Dean Mary Koithan. “The Inland Northwest has a large population of Pacific Islander people who have faced historic and current health inequities. This was never more apparent than during the pandemic. Having this faculty position will help us make meaningful advances in addressing these inequities.”

Among the advances made last year was to create a DEI Advisory Council to elevate the importance of that work within the organization and steer projects related to inclusive excellence.

The advisory council is getting ready to launch its first initiative, which is to conduct separate climate surveys of faculty, staff and students about their experiences and perspectives at the College of Nursing. Vicky Sattler, a teaching assistant professor at the college and a member of the Advisory Council, said a subcommittee has drafted the survey and the goal is to have it out within a month. The information it yields will help identify resource gaps and needs.

Another subcommittee of the advisory council is focused on DEI training and has identified resources available through WSU. The hope is to offer continuing education credits for some of those training sessions to encourage more participation. Also under discussion is setting aside a portion of regular all-college meetings for workshops and trainings related to equity and inclusivity.

Connie Nguyen-Truong, associate professor at the College of Nursing in Vancouver and a member of the DEI Advisory Committee, said work toward inclusive excellence will continue to build. The college accomplished as much as possible last year given pandemic restrictions and upheaval. Now, she said, “This is the year of stepping up and walking the talk.”