The University of Michigan plans to shift from its original Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) plan, known as DEI 1.0, which focused on strategic planning and policy, into the next phase, known as DEI 2.0. Wednesday’s annual DEI Summit marked this shift and took place at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. The summit looked back on the University’s past work in DEI and looked forward to the future of DEI on campus, hosting speakers that represented the three facets of DEI:, heart, mind and soul,
The summit began with a land acknowledgment by two representatives of the Native American Student Association. LSA sophomore Josephine Conti spoke on what the University must do to move past a history of violence and harm against Native Americans during the acknowledgment.
“(The University) has a very painful history in regards to its interactions with Native communities,” Conti said. “But there’s so much work that needs to be done to better serve these communities. This change can only occur through education, truthfulness, transparency and reconciliation.”
Michigan Manzat, a Bollywood Fusion dance team on campus, then took to the stage to give a performance. As the team danced, the crowd began to clap to the beat of the music playing over the speakers.
The speakers presenting at the summit each represented one facet of DEI. Representing the “heart” was Dr. Todd Boyd, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture. Sharing stories from his childhood and from history, Boyd spoke about culture and its role in DEI.
“Culture is an opportunity for us to engage,” Boyd said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion is not the be all (and) end all. It’s one part of a larger process, but it’s a start. We all enjoy our own cultures, we should continue to enjoy them, but also recognize the opportunity it provides for us to make connections across (cultures).”
Speaking on the “mind” was Dr. Dena Scott, a clinical psychologist at Headspace Health. Scott spoke on intersections between health care, specifically mental health care, and DEI.
“One of the things I think is so important for us to think about when we think about the mind and nurturing the mind is the different ways that we think that mental health is for you, that mental health is for me, that mental health care and healing is for all of us,” Scott said.
Sarah Hurwitz, author and former speechwriter for former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, spoke about the “soul” of DEI. Hurwitz encouraged people to explore and learn about other religious and spiritual traditions, and to look past the lenses that may impact perspectives.
“I want to invite you to assume a posture of curiosity and wonder when people tell you about their spiritual and religious backgrounds,” Hurwitz said. “Even better, I invite you to do the work and actually take the time to learn about these traditions and these communities, so you can interact and encounter them on their terms, through their lenses, other than just your own.”
The speakers then went into a panel discussion, where they discussed intersections between the themes they discussed in their speeches, the importance of articulating religious and spiritual stories and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their lives and their thoughts on heart, mind and soul.
The moderator asked about intersectionality between DEI and mental health, and Scott said DEI is central to providing health care.
“When thinking about mental health and thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion, for me, those things are all connected,” Scott said. “There isn’t a way to necessarily separate them out…. You can’t really have good mental health care without thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion.”
During the panel discussion, Hurwitz mentioned her volunteer work in a hospital. She noted that of the about 1,500 patients she had encountered in her volunteer work, she had only encountered one she didn’t like. She said it was strange that she was so judgmental of people on the train to work but not at all of those she was working with while at the hospital, and she wondered why that was.
“It realized it was because I know they’re suffering,” Hurwitz said. “It is very hard to judge somebody who is suffering. I think that’s so much of what we’ve been talking about today. You don’t necessarily know how much somebody is suffering, and I think just having that humility and having that kindness … is something we should work towards.”
Daily Staff Reporter Riley Hodder can be reached at email@example.com