The President's Message

President's Message, Bruce Jarrell

Each month, The President’s Message updates the UMB community on University initiatives; spotlights faculty, staff, and student achievements; and promotes upcoming UMB events.

We Must All Commit to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

September 2020

In May, I shared my belief that the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) cannot be true to its mission to improve the human condition if we do not address issues of structural racism and inequality. Unequivocally, UMB believes that Black Lives Matter. As Maryland’s only public health, law, and human services university and an anchor institution in Baltimore, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) must be guiding principles here.

We recognize the need for justice and systemic change in the country and the need to examine our own responsibility and not be afraid of what may be uncomfortable or inconvenient. After our virtual town hall on social justice in June, I promised that the conversation would not be an isolated incident but a point in UMB’s path forward. We need to address racism and inequality directly, through educational programs, through our community engagement work, and in our academic pursuits.

As we strive to be a more anti-racist institution, I am proud of the work that has brought us to where we are today. The Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) has worked for close to a decade providing recommendations to the president and promoting the University’s commitment to DEI. It aims to enhance UMB’s environment to ensure that valuing diversity and cultural competency, creating a culture of inclusion, and achieving equity become guiding principles in every aspect of the University’s activities. DAC highlights students, faculty, and staff who are leading the way with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Awards. It also hosts affinity groups and recently created the Action Advisory Workgroup (AAW) to address racial and systemic issues that were discussed during the social justice town hall. AAW identified next steps and has made recommendations regarding long-term solutions to help UMB stand against racism.

Our community engagement work strives to address structural and institutional inequality as well. We are working to empower communities of color in West Baltimore through support of neighborhood leaders and community programs and through our work with Baltimore City Public Schools and minority businesses. By committing to hiring more of our workforce from neighborhoods where there are traditionally high unemployment rates and many residents lack a college degree, and committing to local purchasing goals, we can support small, minority-owned businesses and bring more vibrant diversity to the UMB family. We engage deeply in the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods through our nationally recognized Promise Heights program, fighting to bring more equitable educational resources to West Baltimore, as well as the Positive Schools Center, an entity at our School of Social Work that is devoted to understanding and reducing implicit bias in Baltimore City Public Schools. Our CURE Scholars Program — a national model — is a pipeline initiative that helps sixth- to 12th-grade students in West Baltimore prepare for competitive and rewarding research, STEM, and health care career opportunities.

I’m committed to ensuring that UMB will continue to learn and grow, striving to not only support DEI, but also to be an actively anti-racist organization. Last year, the senior leadership team participated in an all-day training on implicit bias and structural racism led by Race Forward, a nonprofit racial justice organization. That training has been important to informing the way we function as a leadership team and given us additional insight that we use when making decisions. For example, we wanted to make sure that the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force had members tasked to think specifically through a DEI lens. I’m also pleased to announce that we are creating programming on structural oppression that will leverage the work of our schools of social work and law and the Graduate School. The program will focus on an array of topics including cultural competency, structural and institutional racism, how policies such as redlining affect our present communities, and more. My hope is that we can set a baseline of understanding for everyone at UMB — students, faculty, and staff — so that together we can commit to learning more, exploring new narratives, and constantly seeking improvement.

In that vein, I’m glad to share that Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing, and Dawn M. Rhodes, MBA, chief business and finance officer and vice president, will co-chair the search committee for a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer (CDEIO) and that a CDEIO committee has been established. The CDEIO will be a leader, advisor, and catalyst for institutional change focused on DEI at the institutional level.

We are clearly making progress, but we have much work to do. We are fortunate to have dedicated students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have worked to positively effect change around DEI at UMB. While I am proud that we hung banners to show that UMB believes that Black Lives Matter, everyone must commit to showing our beliefs through our actions. Our mission to improve the human condition and serve the public good requires action on racial justice and persistent inequality. It will not be the job of any one position or committee to fully address all the issues at play. Racial justice work requires a commitment from all of UMB. My hope is that when graduates leave UMB, they will take with them a firm understanding of how to root out and address systemic racism and work to create opportunities for others where they might not have existed before. Together, we will make UMB a better, stronger, and more equitable place.

Sincerely,

Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS
UMB President