The Yale Alumni Association has recognized two alumni organizations within the Yale School of Public Health for their ongoing work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the school’s community.

On Nov. 22, the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors Excellence Awards recognized the Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health, known as AYAPH, and the Emerging Majority Affairs Committee, known as EMAC. This award, given at the 2019 YAA Assembly and Yale Alumni Fund Convocation, honors alumni organizations for excellence in events, programs and practices relating to Yale. The association honored the work of 12 organizations, marking a decrease from previous years in which around 20 organizations received the honor.

“Being recognized within the School [of Public Health] is great, but outside is even greater,” said former EMAC chair Kevin Nelson SPH ’92, who was present at the ceremony to accept the award. “It just speaks to the acknowledgment of the importance of DEI and the work that has been done in support of DEI.”

AYAPH and EMAC promote three major changes to advance the School of Public Health’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, according to AYAPH board member Darryl Crompton SPH ’76.

For one, they sponsored a daylong retreat in February 2019 for members of the alumni association board and stakeholders at the SPH, such as graduate students, faculty members and deans. Crompton said the retreat, which was attended by over 30 people, was “a totally unique event” at Yale.

“That whole retreat focused on the diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, which is where a lot of our energy is going right now,” said AYAPH treasurer Lynne Bannister SPH ’77. “Part of that was to educate the rest of the board about DEI and to make sure [it] became a priority in every aspect of the school: in hiring, in retention, in students, in faculty, in everything.”

According to Crompton, participants in this retreat recommended that the SPH dedicate funds to DEI. They also suggested the school set specific goals regarding diversity, and that the school create infrastructure to further such initiatives.

In addition, upon EMAC and AYAPH’s recommendation, the School of Public Health appointed associate professor Mayur Desai SPH ’94 GRD ’97 as the inaugural Associate Dean for DEI. According to Bannister, EMAC originally pushed for this position to be full-time, but funding restrictions only allowed Desai to assume the role on a part-time basis.

Finally, AYAPH and EMAC successfully worked with the SPH to change the school’s mission statement to directly reference equity and social justice, Crompton said.

“By definition, public health is something everybody relates to,” said AYAPH President Tassos Kyriakides GRD ’99. “We have to include everybody and be inclusive in making sure we have both a diverse population and equity across the school.”

The collaboration between AYAPH, EMAC and SPH leadership is a big factor in the school’s efforts toward creating a more inclusive environment.

Bannister said that SPH administrators and faculty members have “certainly embraced” the work of EMAC. Kyriakides described the relationship between AYAPH and the school’s leadership office as a mutual interest.

“I think it’s important for our students, not only minority students but also on a whole, to know that [the SPH Dean] cares,” said Modupeore Shenbanjo SPH ’16. “It’s been really, really cool to see just how this relationship has changed so much.”

The School of Public Health has increased efforts to diversify its faculty and staff, as well as to recruit and retain students of color, in part due to the influence of the two groups.

But more funding is needed to fully accomplish these goals, according to Bannister. For many, the School of Public Health still has very substantial work to do before fulfilling the DEI initiative.

“I would say [the SPH] has addressed the issue. But if you look at the number of faculty of color, I would say that they really have not done a good job,” Crompton said.

While the School of Public Health has reached gender equity among its students and faculty, he said, the school’s lack of professors of color indicates that there is still significant room for improvement with regard to race. Crompton also called the percentage of faculty of color “consistently unacceptable” to AYAPH.

Bannister also said that the number of faculty of color in the School of Public Health has been too low historically and remains that way today.

“There is still a significant underrepresentation of faculty of color and students of color, and that just should not be,” Nelson said. “It’s 2020.”

The Yale School of Public Health was one of the first eight schools to be nationally accredited by the American Public Health Association in 1946.

 

Julia Brown | julia.brown@yale.edu