For the second year in a row, the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) has won the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The HEED Award recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.
UMSON was among 43 institutions recognized with the HEED Award, and all are featured in the December 2019 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity publication in higher education.
“We are tremendously honored that the School of Nursing has been recognized for the second year in a row with this prestigious award,” says UMSON Dean Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN. “The process of applying for the HEED Award allows us to continually assess our progress on issues of diversity and inclusion. We know that diversifying the health care workforce — not only racially and ethnically, but also with respect to sexual orientation and gender identification, as well as an array of economic, cultural, and social factors — is an essential aspect of creating a truly effective and equitable system of health care for all persons.
“We are proud of the high level of diversity within our student body across our degree programs,” Kirschling adds, “but the work is far from done, and we must continue to explore additional ways to ensure that we can all live the values of diversity and inclusion every day in everything that we do.”
According to INSIGHT Into Diversity, the award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees (and best practices for both), continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion.
“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient,” says Lenore Pearlstein, the magazine’s co-publisher. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”
UMSON has a diverse student population, with 48 percent of its total enrollment composed of students of ethnic and racial diversity, compared to a national average of 33 percent. Men compose almost 13 percent of UMSON’s student body, compared to 10 percent nationally. The school also attracts students from various socioeconomic backgrounds, supporting about 60 percent with substantive merit- and need-based financial aid, and has healthy geographic representation from around Maryland with students from 20 of the state’s 24 counties.
The school has a variety of programs and initiatives related to diversity and inclusion, including an LGBTQ+ ally working group and an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, headed by Jeffrey Ash, EdD, associate dean for diversity and inclusion and assistant professor, who also is a member of the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Diversity Advisory Council.
“We are again honored and very proud to be recognized for the prestigious HEED Award,” Ash says. “This process requires us to take a long, hard look at ourselves internally in terms of our diversity and inclusion efforts. Diversity and inclusion and its work are not one day of the year or one month of the year. Diversity and inclusion, and inclusive excellence, is an everyday journey and occurrence. Inclusive excellence is about establishing high standards and expectations, a standard and expectation in self-awareness and engagement, and a standard that touches every aspect of our working and learning together as a school.
“Receiving this award for the second consecutive year reinforces our standards and expectations of inclusive excellence and our commitment to our core value of diversity and inclusion.”
In its 2019 application, UMSON highlighted three areas of innovation:
Health and wellness: The school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has an affinity group called Fit ’n’ Fun, which partnered with UMB’s Launch Your Life wellness program to sponsor and organize a Universitywide step challenge, the Ultimate Mileage Battle. Having organized a successful step challenge solely within UMSON in 2018, the school found the friendly rivalry and encouragement for improved health practices had a positive impact on employee engagement. As a result, UMSON helped to establish a new campus tradition while encouraging healthy lifestyles and work-life balance. (UMSON’s efforts in this area were noted on the INSIGHT Into Diversity website.)
Social justice and activism: UMSON introduced restorative justice (RJ) practices through its professional development program by facilitating circle discussion processes and starting an RJ interest group. The school aims to impact the way it addresses situations in which members of the school community harm one another, to encourage all voices to be heard in decision-making, and to address power imbalances. UMSON plans to develop its RJ interest group members into specialists who can be called upon to help facilitate restorative processes upon request among the school’s students, faculty, and staff.
Policies and strategy: The school has updated its policies in two areas to enhance diversity and inclusion practices. In 2018, it began requiring chairs of search committees to engage in structured learning about implicit bias and how to run an optimal search. Secondly, UMSON has implemented a new section in its faculty and staff professional development plans in which employees create diversity goals and complete them within the annual evaluation period. This provides employees with the flexibility to set goals that fit within their roles or professional interests.
UMB’s history with the HEED Award includes recognition last year, when the School of Social Work was honored along with UMSON; in 2015, when UMB won for its community engagement efforts after the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray; and in 2013, when UMB was recognized for its schools’ commitment to diversity through individual and interprofessional efforts.