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SMU Board Of Regents Establish Endowed Diversity Scholarship Fund

In December, 2011, the Samuel Merritt University (SMU) Board of Regents established the Regents Diversity Endowed Scholarship Fund to help recruit students who are underrepresented in the health professions.

"Since 1990, SMU has embraced diversity as a core value," said University President Sharon Diaz.  "In 2006, this commitment was restated through the revision of the University's mission, vision and values statement and [again] in 2009 during the celebration of the Centennial year when Samuel Merritt College became a University."

President Diaz adds that the Board of Regents charged the University in 2008 with "creating a culturally diverse University," a strategy representing an important transition from good intentions to an active institution-wide initiative. 

The University responded to the Board charge in several ways.  The Committee for Equity and Inclusion (CEI) expanded the role of the previously established Multicultural Committee.  The core purpose of CEI is to advance inclusion and diversity within the University.  Over the past several years, through Town Halls and other collaborative efforts among staff and faculty, the University conducted a series of focus groups and campus forums in which self-assessments were held.  Additionally, faculty and staff and student climate surveys were administered for gathering important opinion and experience from the University community.

The University increased efforts to diversify the SMU student body by increasing enrollment numbers especially African-American and Hispanic/Latinos.  There is a critical need for fulfilling the mission to recruit and retain faculty, staff, and students from a more diverse cross-section of the community. 

"The University recognized that these groups were the least represented in SMU's demographic mix relative to their presence in the wider community, and that these groups constituted the largest underserved populations with respect to healthcare," explained Kathleen Roberts, J.D., Ph.D., Chief Diversity Officer.  "Real gaps currently exist that require us to focus on particular dimensions of diversity."

Health disparities exist among minority and underserved communities that need care from a workforce that reflects the community.  According to the Institute of Medicine, when a healthcare workforce reflects the racial, ethnic, economic and cultural diversity of the patients it serves, access and quality of care is improved and disparities of care are reduced.

"In alignment with these findings, SMU has made a commitment to provide a health profession education to students who reflect the diversity of the Oakland regional community," adds Dr. Roberts.  "Two key aspects of SMU's strategy are the development of pipeline programs within the Oakland community and the removal of financial barriers."

The University's commitment for diversity, equity, and inclusiveness deepens with the addition of a diversity scholarship fund.  The Board of Regents has provided funding to get the Diversity Endowed Scholarship Fund started.  The first scholarship from this Fund will be awarded in the 2013-2014 academic year.

"Samuel Merritt University embraces the challenge of serving a more diverse mix of students, increasing diversity in the faculty and staff, and preparing our graduates to work with patients and practitioners from many different backgrounds," said President Diaz.

For more information on how to contribute to the Samuel Merritt University Regent's Diversity Endowed Scholarship Fund or to receive information on establishing your own named scholarship, please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at (510) 869-1507 or www.samuelmerritt.edu/donors.

Article Contributed by Carla Ross, Director of Alumni Affairs and Associate Director of Development

 
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