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Paving the Path to Inclusivity at SMU

Kira Allen and Dr. Shelly TochlukOn December 7, Shelly Tochluk, Ph. D., Chair of the Education Department at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, spoke to a packed room of Samuel Merritt University students, faculty, and staff about the importance of acknowledging and understanding the multiple levels of diversity.

She shared her story of moving from being a "bystander" to racial injustice to becoming a "witness" who can raise a voice in hopes of interrupting the cycle of discrimination and injury.  Shelly Tochluk has learned to be race cognizant and an active participant in reducing racism and unearned privilege. 

"For many of us, we have been taught that being colorblind is the best way to deal with issues of race," explains Dr. Tochluk.  "To pay attention to race, we are taught, will only keep us mired in the past. Unfortunately, there are some significant problems with the idea of being colorblind, and these problems usually exacerbate racial divisions. "

Dr. Tochluk, author of Witnessing Whiteness: First Steps Toward an Antiracist Practice and Culture, emphasizes that for all academic disciplines paying attention to race is important, not just healthcare, but also how it improves one’s life.  Steve Miles, a student in the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) program, says he found the talk to be open and important one for the University in order to move on the path towards equity and inclusion as a campus community.

"I think it’s important because these are things we all have within us.  Unless you confront them it’s a wakeup call," adds Miles.  "I don’t know if it’s going to help me per se since I am bi-racial, but I think it’s going to help a lot of people, it’s a really positive step."

Assistant Professor Paulina Van, RN, Ph.D., says she was happy and encouraged to see many students at the event.  "My ultimate hope is for the students who came with any discomfort around issues of race that they walked away with a sense of hope, renewal, and technique."

Kira Allen, Student Services Coordinator, suggested bringing Dr. Tochluk to SMU after hearing her speak at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education.  The event was sponsored by Academic Affairs, the School of Nursing iSTAND, Staff Council, the Committee for Equity and Inclusion, SBA and Student Services.

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