September 27, 2012 — With jazz in the background and pizza and empanadas set out on the table, it was an inviting scene at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Office of Diversity open house on September 13, 2012. Throughout the day, a steady stream of students came to meet the staff and learn about the variety of programs offered by the office.
It was a special occasion, to be sure, but the Office of Diversity is actually an “open house” all year long. Inside the converted triple-decker at 35 Wigglesworth St., across the street from the main campus, there’s a conference room and study area with computers, Wi-Fi access, and coffee, tea, and popcorn. The cozy and comfortable space is open to everyone in the HSPH community, said Dale Trevino, who has directed the office since it opened three years ago.
“The office is here for anybody—faculty, staff, or students—who wants to engage in dialogue about differences,” said Trevino. “It’s also a place to study, an alternative to Kresge.”
Wide array of programs and services
The Office of Diversity is HSPH’s central resource for bolstering opportunities and inclusion for groups who have been historically underrepresented and underserved at U.S. schools of public health, and for promoting the importance of diversity across the School.
The office runs a wide array of programs. Chief among them is the Student Ambassador Program, in which students are selected to assist staff in student service offices and to serve as links with other students, faculty, staff, and academic departments. The ambassadors’ activities include fostering connections between minority-based student groups; promoting service learning components in courses; boosting diversity in the admissions process by working with both prospective and admitted students; and visiting high schools in Roxbury and other neighborhoods to introduce students to the public health field.
Other offerings include a diversity talks series, an alumni/student mentor program, a multicultural film series, and networking. This fall, Trevino is co-teaching a series of workshops on “Power and Difference,” aimed at helping people work and lead effectively in a multicultural world. Trevino and his colleague Venus Israni, program coordinator, also help ensure that conversations about diversity and inclusion are included in orientation activities.
A draw for students
Hannabah Blue, a Native American MPH student from New Mexico who was at the open house, said her experience with the Office of Diversity helped cement her decision to attend HSPH. During a campus visit she stopped into the office and met Trevino and Israni. “They were so incredibly welcoming and open,” she said. “I could feel the community. This place is like a home away from home.”
Tari Owi, an African American MPH student from Washington, D.C., said she was grateful for the existence of the office. “I think this is the type of thing that will encourage other students to come here when they’re looking at public health programs,” she said.
photo: Aubrey LaMedica