As Assistant Nursing Professor Dr. Michelle Santana embraces her new part-time role as coordinator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives (DEI) at Neumann University, her commitment to promoting our RISES values has never been stronger. She sees a promising future for the university and is ready to lead us toward a more inclusive, tolerant, and just community.
Santana’s work as chairperson of the University Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (UCDEI) during the past year has illustrated her commitment to and passion for these issues. When the part-time coordinator position was created, Dr. Chris Domes tapped Santana for the post. According to Santana, her role as coordinator is to effectively orchestrate all of the work being done through a variety of on-campus DEI initiatives.
The UCDEI was formed in late 2019 and began meeting in the spring of 2020. Chaired by Santana, the group focused on the current campus environment and began holding conversations and surveying the NU community last summer and fall. The council created working groups to address numerous topics related to diversity, leadership and engagement.
In the near future, the UCDEI will have a webpage on the university website, host speakers, and organize guided conversations. Santana plans to host meetings with a wide array of individuals to share with them her blueprint for Neumann as an even more inclusive community.
“I’m going to bring all of this together, so members of the campus and university see we are practicing our RISES values,” she said. “It’s going to be a large undertaking and I’m just laying the foundation.”
Santana sees the entire NU community having a role in these efforts to make a difference. Her plans include education, reconciliation, and understanding. In January, she coordinated two listening sessions for a diverse group of 16 faculty and staff members. This platform created a safe space where participants could express themselves.
“My role is to make sure anyone who steps on our campus practices all of our RISES values every day. This isn’t episodic. This is who we are, not just based on things happening in the news lately,” Santana explained.
Santana accepted this 18-month position because it speaks to who she is. At the age of 36, she came to Neumann to pursue her nursing degree while she and her husband were raising their seven children and she was working full time.
“For one, I am diverse, and I have had to deal with all of the obstacles that have come before me. All of the challenges that can be met- I’ve met them,” she said. “This is not work for me. This is just expanding what I have already done.”