Progress and Commitments

In recognition of the need for Columbia Mailman to take focused, sustained, community-wide action to move us more quickly toward our vision of an anti-racist, multi-cultural and fully inclusive institution, in June 2020 Dean Linda P. Fried created FORWARD (Fighting Oppression, Racism and White supremacy through Action, Research and Discourse), a permanent vehicle through which our broad range of stakeholders can engage in goal-setting, discourse and solution development to reach our shared vision. FORWARD’s work, which is coordinated by a multi-stakeholder Accountability Cabinet that is advisory to the Dean, helps ensure the focus needed for continuous change, and Action Corps comprised of faculty, staff, students, and alumni develop ongoing recommendations for progress. In addition to FORWARD, the School has convened a DEI Core Leadership Group to expand our efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Below we share updates on progress made in five key areas:

DEI Leadership for the School

  • Leadership: As announced by the Dean in March 2022, the role of Assistant Dean for Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion will be elevated to an Associate or Vice Dean level.
  • Phase 1 of Courageous Conversations: The School and the leadership team are in the midst of the first phase of deepening their individual understandings of their own history and racialized selves, as well as the lived experiences of others within the School, guided by the well-respected firm Courageous Conversation.

Strengthening Education and Training

  • Anti-Racism Workshop Series: In October 2021, we launched Face Forward, a four-session workshop required for first year MPH students and encouraged for all community members. The series features leaders in the field sharing insights on anti-racist practice and engaging in a dialogue with our community. The series adds a critical component to our integrated MPH Core curriculum, providing opportunities for students to analyze the ways that structural bias and racism undermine health and consider how we can repair these inequities through our work. In the first year of the series, our guests have shared insights on anti-racist practice and engaged in dialogue with more than 1,000 members of the general public, the School, and CUIMC community. 
  • Curriculum Review: The Office of Education has received funding from the Provost’s Office and has begun mapping the Core curriculum and establishing measurable benchmarks for inclusive content, with the ultimate goal of suffusing the entire curriculum with equitable, anti-racist coursework. Face Forward and the curriculum review were the result of recommendations made by the FORWARD Curriculum Action Corps.
  • FORWARD Fellows Initiative: The School is developing fellowship opportunities with departments and programs as part of the FORWARD Fellows initiative. Student applications to become fellows will open in the coming weeks. More information about FORWARD Fellows can be found here.
  • Course Additions: Across the School, academic departments have increased offerings on racism and public health, as well as health equity, to deepen learning in these critical areas.

Increasing Academic and Student Support 

  • Academic Support Initiatives: We recognize that, in addition to recruiting students to Columbia Mailman, we must provide the academic support and resources that every student needs to be successful and thrive. To that end, we have launched two new programs this fall:
  • MPH Core Pilot Tutoring: A new team of 6 learning specialists will provide tutoring to MPH Core students in areas of greatest need- biostatistics, epidemiology, and writing. During this pilot phase, eligibility is determined using Core assessments. (Request information)
  • WritingWorks Doctoral Dissertation Support: This suite of resources, which include write-a-thons and writing retreats, provides social and academic support to PhD and DrPH students in the process of completing their dissertation. (Request information)
  • Support For Students: To help ensure that first-generation and BIPOC students have the support needed to thrive, we have invested additional resources in the RISE and MOSAIC mentoring programs, including creating three social work field placement positions to work with students and conduct a program evaluation to inform future program expansion. These interns have been working closely with Student Affairs in support of RISE events programs, development of an evaluation to identify areas of growth and strength, and points of collaboration between MOSAIC and RISE. The FORWARD Student Recruitment Action Corps recommended additional investments in these programs.

Building a Culture of Inclusion 

  • Learning Opportunities: We are creating and will encourage participation in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility learning opportunities for all faculty and staff this year. The School’s leadership team will engage expertise in ongoing work to deepen understanding of the experiences of members of our community, uncover the unconscious biases that impact our work, and continue leading institutional change.
  • Hiring Toolkit: Human Resources is developing a hiring manager toolkit for recruiting, supporting, and retaining faculty and staff from marginalized backgrounds. The FORWARD Faculty and Staff Recruitment and Retention Action Corps recommended this action.
  • Communicating Identity: To provide guidance in using inclusive language we are creating a Guide to Communicating Health and Identity which will be launched mid-semester. Also, we have updated the recommended Columbia Mailman signature block to include one’s pronouns in use and encourage all to utilize this model.
  • Land Acknowledgment: We are finalizing a formal statement, with input from the Lenape Center, that recognizes the Indigenous people who originally stewarded the land upon which Columbia Mailman sits, Lenapehoking.  The statement will appear on our website and be prominently displayed in the ARB building.
  • Equity Guidelines: We are gathering final input on school-wide equity guidelines, which will provide a set of unifying standards and principles to guide both academic and administrative units in their planning and decision-making.
  • Office of Diversity Culture and Inclusion Resources: ODCI is hosting a range of new programs, and resources this year, from How to Be an Upstanding Bystander to an LGBTQ+ advocacy workshop. 

Advancing Community Partnerships 

  • FORWARD Practicum Program: Launched this past summer at the recommendation of the FORWARD Community Action Corps, this program provided stipends and support for five students to complete practicums in local organizations focused on advancing health equity.
  • Community Health Accelerator: With seed funding provided by our Board of Advisors, we are developing a community health accelerator to foster bilateral engagement with the local community. The accelerator will serve as a resource and hub for students, faculty and staff wishing to work in the local community to advance health equity. The accelerator was recommended by the FORWARD Community Action Corps, the Building Back Better Task Force, and the Public Health 2035 committee.

As part of our goal to increase transparency, and in-line with recommendations made by the FORWARD Faculty and Staff Recruitment and Retention Action Corps, we will continue to provide email updates, as well as expand communications on our website, through social media and forums for students, faculty, staff, alumni, our Board of Advisors, and local communities. 

To learn more about FORWARD and to share your ideas, please contact