In January, the College of Health and Human Services officially established its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, naming Dr. Betty Dennis as the college's first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Dennis and the new office will be instrumental in implementing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the college.
"This is a new role in the dean’s office and it comes at a pivotal time," says Dean Ron Cisler. "When racism, discrimination and social unrest have impacted our communities and in our professions."
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will work within the college and with leaders across the University to move WMU toward inclusivity and antiracism, to benefit students and the greater WMU community.
“While our students are here, working so hard to become excellent health care professionals,” says Dr. Dennis, “they graduate to professions where health disparities, discrimination and racism are actively working against equality, health and wellness. We talk about our students being on the frontlines of many things these days. They are definitely on the frontline of this fight as well.”
Dr. Dennis is a faculty specialist II in the School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs and has been chair of the CHHS Committee for Diversity and Inclusion for several years. In that role, she has led the committee in many initiatives directed at increasing awareness, kindness and inclusivity in the college. Events like the bi-annual diversity and inclusion conference or last year's Week of Caring present regular opportunities for the committee to interact with staff, students and faculty in the college.
In July 2020, in reaction to social unrest in cities across the nation, the committee worked with stakeholders in the college to draft the CHHS Statement on Race and Antiracism. The statement lays out measurable outcomes for the college in its stance on racial inequity.
"I know many of the students, faculty and staff in this college are ready to get started on the work laid out in that statement," says Dr. Dennis. "Dean Cisler is committed to it and I look forward to working on it with anyone who will join us."
Dr. Dennis remains chair of the CHHS diversity committee in her new role.