UAB’s commitment to diversity and inclusion honored

Michelle Robinson 14 streamMichelle Robinson, DMD, associate professor and associate dean for Health Information and Business Systems in the School of DentistryAs proof of UAB’s consistent commitment to championing and advocating for equity and inclusion, UAB earned two awards from Minority Access Inc., a nonprofit organization that assists individuals, academic institutions and government agencies in diversifying campuses and worksites.

For the second year in a row, UAB was named a 2017 recipient of the Colleges and Institutions Committed to Diversity Award for its work expanding the pool of minority scientists, researchers and professionals in the respective fields in which they are underrepresented, and Michelle Robinson, DMD, associate professor and associate dean for Health Information and Business Systems in the School of Dentistry, was recognized as a 2017 National Role Model for her efforts in advancing the recruitment, retention and enhancement of underrepresented students and employees in the School.

UAB and Robinson were recognized officially in September at the 18th National Role Models Conference in Washington, D.C.

Continuing to grow

Minority Access’ National Role Models project focuses on honoring inspiring students, faculty, alumni, innovators and institutions who are dedicated to expanding opportunities for minority groups in underrepresented areas. The ultimate goal is that the role models will affect change within their particular area, Robinson said, and that change will spread — something she witnessed after learning she’d received the award.

“The Department of Surgery had two visiting professors coming in from Australia, and they saw the piece on my award in the eReporter and wanted to talk about my work,” Robinson said. The professors worked with UAB to train residents abroad. “Once the word gets out, our network expands and our reach gets bigger. That’s what this is about.”

UAB is one of six Alabama higher-education institutions to receive the Colleges and Institutions Committed to Diversity Award.

Robinson said UAB’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity only has room to grow from here, especially in a social and political climate where higher education institutions are constantly put in the spotlight. Events such as Community Week each January and the President’s Diversity Champion Awards provide other ways for people on campus to advocate for inclusivity, Robinson said.

“If we look at some of the negative things that are happening on campuses nationally that can be divisive, it’s important for UAB to stand up and make it clear to everyone that this is a campus that values diversity and inclusivity,” she said. “The fact that UAB is involved with Minority Access Inc., which raises awareness and bolsters the reputation of campuses that are making a positive impact, is a wonderful thing.”

A campuswide commitment

“If we look at some of the negative things that are happening on campuses nationally that speak to a lack of inclusivity, it’s important for UAB to stand up and make it clear to everyone that this is a campus that values diversity and inclusivity.”

UAB, one of six Alabama higher-education institutions to receive the Colleges and Institutions Committed to Diversity Award, has a reputation as being one of the most diverse universities in the nation. The student body is more than 38 percent minority, more than 21 percent black and more than 61 percent female. UAB also enrolled 973 international students this fall, who, along with 628 international faculty, staff and visiting scholars on campus, represent more than 100 countries around the world.

“UAB is honored to receive this prestigious award recognizing our core commitment to diversity and equal opportunity,” said President Ray Watts.  “I thank our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Michelle Robinson, and our faculty and staff who continue to make us a national model for widening access to higher education and growing the ranks of underrepresented scientists, investigators, and other professionals.”