Neumann University's Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), established two years ago, will soon have a full-time Chief Diversity Officer dedicated to sharing the university's RISES values with everyone who steps on campus.
This summer, Dr. Michelle Santana will transition from full-time nursing professor to the newly created full-time Chief Diversity Officer position. She is the first person to hold this title but has been working with the DEI Council since its inception. In March 2021, Santana was appointed the coordinator of DEI initiatives, and she assumed this role while continuing to teach full-time in the nursing program.
As Dr. Domes said in his January 14 email, Santana will assume her new position on June 1, 2022. She will be reporting to Sr. Kathy Dougherty, vice president for mission and ministry.
"I'm so excited to join forces with her," Santana said of Dougherty. "I've been talking with her regularly, and she's a wonderful woman. I know that she believes in the mission of DEI."
Santana is proud of her appointment but equally proud of the DEI Council's accomplishments in the past two years. These include creating an online DEI library that contains videos and other resources to promote DEI education, a calendar of DEI-related events, and a section called "Share your Stories," where the NU community can share articles, books, etc.
Additionally, Santana has helped launch the first part of a professional development program for staff through Get Inclusive, Inc. This video presents educational materials, including scenarios and focused questions on major terms related to DEI and the challenges of discrimination, harassment, and bullying, and how to address them properly.
In February, the university will launch a new bias incident reporting mechanism to monitor success toward the goal to welcome, value, and affirm all members of the NU community. These reports will help track trends and patterns, address bias incidents, and improve the NU campus climate. Reports can be filed electronically and anonymously and will be reviewed by a bias activity board.
The DEI Council seeks to continually educate people about language that others might consider offensive so that every person feels they are being treated equitably.
"We don't want anyone to feel marginalized, and we want people on campus to recognize what a microaggression is and to know how to respond. We want to educate. Just because we're adults, it doesn't mean we know everything," said Santana.
Santana's future plans for DEI programming include creating more significant collaborations with the NU students, faculty, and staff.
"We plan to have topic-driven town hall meetings for our students, faculty, and staff," she explained. "We also plan to have a multicultural group alliance built through a collaboration with student affairs. We are working on a safety project with campus security and local law enforcement."
Santana is passionate about supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. She calls NU her home because of her long history with the university. Santana first came to NU as a student, obtaining her nursing degree. She experienced a very welcoming environment and wants to ensure that other students have that same positive experience.
"I want to make sure that whenever anyone walks on our campus, they have that feeling that they are welcome, they're included, and they matter just as much as the next person, regardless of their social-economic background, race, gender, or disability," Santana explained. "That's the feeling I had when I came here as a student."