For Marlanna Landeros, the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security’s program manager, public safety at the University is in her blood.
Landeros is one of 10 individual recipients of this year’s Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award, and was recognized last week by the Office of Institutional Equity as the force behind DPSS programs aimed at making the department diversity-concious.
The Distinguished Diversity Leaders Award celebrates University members working toward creating an inclusive working environment. The award is made possible by the Office of the Provost and Human Resources, and winners recieve money to use for professional development activities.
Though her position as student program manager is new in the department this year, Landeros is no stranger to campus safety and security. She has held multiple positions with DPSS since 2002, and noted that her mother and father were also involved in similar public safety work while she was growing up.
“My dad was director of public safety at UM-Flint,” she explained. “I learned the importance and value of diversity; it looked a little different when they were part of policing. And I gained a passion for wanting to make a difference.”
Much of her work this year has been focused on implementing University President Mark Schlissel’s diversity initiative. Every department and unit on campus has been tasked with developing a unique strategic plan to address diversity that will ultimately be combined into one cohesive plan in the fall.
“The structure we’ve built is designed to encourage discussion, the sharing of successful programs and the development of new ideas,” Schlissel said at the introduction of the initiative last September. “We want to encourage innovation to set broad parameters; not prescribed boxes.”
Landeros said for DPSS, implementing those instructions has meant orchestrating dialogues with other departments as well as creating safe spaces for students to communicate with University police. On multiple occasions, she said, she had to demonstrate DPSS’s presence in the planning initiative to other departments.
“With the call to action from the president, people know we must move forward,” she said. “And (the plan) brings together a lot of people that would not intersect and have a conversation on this subject matter. Verifying to other groups that we’re here has been very important.”
The intersection of diversity and policing is a sensitive one in many communities, including at the University, as minority students have voiced complaints of feeling unsafe on campus over past years. The City Council’s Human Rights Commission recently recommended that the city institute a police review board after the death of Aura Rosser, a Black woman fatally shot by an Ann Arbor police officer in 2014.
In response to a question about similar programs on college campuses, such as Michigan State University’s recent creation of an Inclusions and Anti-Bias Unit within the school’s public safety department, and whether DPSS would consider instituting one, Landeros to the unit's data collection as a part of the strategic plan.
“We’re still seeking data there before we make any decisions,” she said.