Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Samuel Merritt University's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is expressed through its mission statement, "to educate students to become highly skilled and compassionate healthcare professionals who positively transform the experience of care in diverse communities." In light of the demographics of our local communities and the vital role a diverse healthcare workforce plays in reducing healthcare disparities, the University has identified diversity as a strategic imperative. Diversity is a core strategy embedded in the ongoing work of the institution at all levels.

Our Mission

The mission of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is to foster a culture of service, inclusion, and excellence.

  • We create a sense of belonging for all campus members
  • We educate a diverse and culturally responsive health care workforce
  • We develop culturally competent leaders that reflect community demographics
  • We work to reduce health care disparities in vulnerable communities

Principles of Community

As part of the Office of People and Culture, we're guided by SMU's principles of community.

  • We affirm the value of human diversity, respecting our differences while acknowledging our common humanity
  • We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate based on mutual respect, fairness, and inclusion, calling for civility and decency in our personal interactions, regardless of position or status in the academy
  • We respect the right of freedom of expression within our community and value the different perspectives of others, recognizing and appreciating these differences builds trust and contributes to the excellence of the university
  • We challenge all forms of behavior that are prejudicial, discriminatory, and detrimental, or contrary to the values expressed in this document; and we take responsibility for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education and our interactions with one another
  • As a community, we are committed, individually and collectively, to embodying and safeguarding these principles

Coming soon!

Dear SMU Community,

Excited to announce the 2022-2024 Community Reads selection Golem Girl, a memoir by Riva Lehrer (2020). Over the year, you are welcome to participate in shared readings, discussions, and events surrounding this book.

Speakers pending (2023). Intersectionality: Disability and LGBTQ: The lived experience and call for change of healthcare practice. 

Focus: Disability Sensitive care with children, adults, families; Disability Culture @ SMU. 
For more on this year’s Community Reads: https://samuelmerritt.libguides.com/yourheart

Riva Lehrer (2022). Panel and discussion with author, Riva Lehrer.

James Lebrecht (2022). Viewing & discussion with James Lebrecht, Director, Crip Camp (2020). Rosemary McDonnell-Horita, Asian-American disability rights advocate & educator; Julia Cohen, SMU’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) Director. Moderator: Marjorie Hammer, Asst Professor, College of Nursing. 

The book is available for loan at SMU and local libraries in print, electronic, and audible form.

Prior Years' Community Reads Books

2019-2020 Community Reads: The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.

2018-2019 Community Reads: The 57 bus: A true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives & "You're in the Wrong Bathroom" And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People 

2016-2018 Community Reads: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink, Ph.D

2015-2016 Community Reads: Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Workers in the United States by Seth M. Holmes, PhD, MD.

2014-2015 Community Reads: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Dr. Cornelius Hopper Diversity Excellence Award is designed to inspire faculty and staff to engage in activities that will advance health equity and make a lasting impact on individual health and community well-being. The award is named for and honors Dr. Cornelius Hopper, who joined the SMU Board in 1997 and served as its chair from 2000 to 2011. Dr. Hopper has been dedicated to addressing racial disparities in the nation’s healthcare system since 1971.


  • All faculty and staff who engage in activities that will advance health equity and/or make a lasting impact on individual health and community well-being on and/or off campus.

Award and Recognition

  • Recipient will receive up to $1,000 and a personalized trophy.
  • Recipient will have their name inscribed on a perpetual plaque.


Past nominations have included volunteers working to reduce sex trafficking, faculty who organize medical mission/immersion trips, establishment of affinity groups, humanitarian work, creation of a mentorship program, those who have built community relationships that help further the University's mission, and other volunteerism on and off campus.

Past Recipients| Beginning, September 2019 the Sharon Clark Diaz Health Equity Leadership Award was created to honor students. 
2014| Pride Committee: Josh Campbell, Tanya Grigg, and Dr. Anglyn Sasser, staff members 
2015| Che Abram, staff member
2016| Margrette Peterson, staff member
2017| Students: Carmen Craven (BRIDGE mentorship program), Mohammad Deen (Humanitarian work), Nga Dwork (BRIDGE mentorship program), and Shante Myers (BRIDGE mentorship program)
2018| Cynthia Stacy, RN, MSN, faculty member
2019| Alice Jacobs Vestergaard, EdD, RN, faculty member                                                                 2020| Dr. Cornelius Harper Award: Shawna Holbrook, Assistant Director of Admission and Diversity Recruitment, Office of Admission, Oakland Campus 

Instructors gathered around a computer

Office of People & Culture

Providing employees with a safe working environment, open communications, competitive pay and benefits, and a professional environment. (Formerly Human Resources).

Office of People & Culture

Latest News