A collage of event photos showing speakers, poster presenters and audience members

Student Racial Equity Corps Showcases Projects That Build Community

May 10, 2024

Over the past academic year, eight master’s students collaborated with faculty, staff, and community leaders on projects to promote racial equity. These FORWARD Fellows—key members of the larger schoolwide FORWARD (Fighting Oppression, Racism and White Supremacy through Action, Research, and Discourse) initiative—presented the results of their efforts at the Second Annual Equity Showcase on May 2.

Two women on a stage, one holding a microphone

In welcoming remarks, Michael Joseph, Vice Dean of Education, said the fellowship program not only gives students valuable professional experience on team-based projects, but at the same time, the fruits of their labor have “benefited departments and units throughout the Mailman School,” bolstering ongoing anti-racism and equity efforts. In various ways, their projects, each led by two fellows, have fostered community, both within the School and in partnership with local community organizations. (Read more about the 2023-24 FORWARD Fellows.

Eight people seated on stools clapping in front of audience

Rose Monet Little and Joelle Mentis worked on strategies to enhance content on the topic of vulnerability to structural racism in courses offered by the Department of Sociomedical Sciences—including by integrating community engagement efforts. Brandon Christophe and Moza Mendes worked to facilitate student partnerships with community organizations that address health inequities and disparities, as part of a consulting course offered through Health Policy and Management. Janelle Micaela S. Panganiban and Folashade Wilson worked with the School’s Digital Learning Studio to produce a series of short films highlighting community organizations in Washington Heights. Caroline O’Connor and Olamide Fagbamiye worked to bolster community engagement through a leadership-building assignment required of master’s students.

Yvonne Ortiz, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who moderated a panel discussion with students, emphasized that the equity goals pursued by the fellows are in accord with the goals of the field of public health—“to create healthy communities that are successful and work for everyone,” she said. Alwyn T. Cohall, professor of sociomedical sciences and pediatrics, delivered a keynote address on the importance of collaboration. The event concluded with a screening of the short films produced by Panganiban and Wilson followed by a poster session.

In the panel discussion, students affirmed the FORWARD Fellowship gave them a unique opportunity to collaborate with faculty, staff, and community leaders—and to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating an impactful classroom experience. Fellows said they were proud of what they accomplished. Folashade explained that she could see the value of the short films for both community members and students, saying, “Creating space that highlights all voices is necessary.” Mendez added about the consulting course project, “We offered a long-term foundation, strategic plan, and framework so people can take it up in the future.  This is how systemic change is achieved.” Offering words of advice for future fellows, Christophe said, “The sky is the limit on what you can accomplish through this program.”