Our future depends on education

Betsy Wattenberg | August 24, 2023

Originally published in the August 2023 issue of the Notes on Antiracism, Justice, and Equity newsletter.

As we begin the third year of implementing our Strategic Plan for Antiracism (SPAR), we find ourselves in a national climate where the freedom that academic institutions have to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is at risk. At the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH), we actively conduct and promote DEI work; openly discuss the history and consequences of systemic racism; investigate the systems that drive disparities; and share our knowledge to guide movement towards meaningful change. We can each commit to creating an educational and learning environment that prioritizes antiracism, social justice, and health equity.

Betsy Wattenberg, she/her, Associate Dean of Education and Student Engagement, School of Public Health

Grow your knowledge about antiracism and DEI by utilizing the resources offered by the Office of DEI, including the SPAR Animated Video Series, and share them with others. Learn about the ways unjust systems impact the health of communities and find inspiration through leaders who are working to dismantle those systems by attending the Justice in Public Health Speaker Series.

Our classrooms, both online and in person, provide a space to engage in the broad areas of expertise that exist among the faculty and students. As educators and students, be mindful of the humanity behind the data, numbers, and statistics; be aware of the complex lived experiences of people who are much more than what is represented by a data point. As you engage in discussions, keep in mind that we are not always aware of each other’s personal and professional experiences, and how each of us relates directly or indirectly to classroom material and discussions. Be thoughtful about the biases and perspectives you bring to the classroom. Question the sources of evidence. Are there flaws in the data that might lead to a misleading conclusion? Does the evidence advance our knowledge of health equity? 

We can also demonstrate commitment to the work of SPAR by joining the SPH community at the SPAR Anniversary Celebration: 2 Years of Progress Towards Antiracism and Health Equity on October 2. Consider sharing your knowledge and experiences by giving a Pecha Kucha presentation. These presentations are designed to be fast-paced talks on how SPH faculty, staff, students, and alumni are advancing antiracism and health equity. 

Finally, as you start the new school year, seek motivation to fully exercise your academic freedom in the guiding principles of SPAR: Commit, Challenge, Change. We appreciate your contribution to this work and will continue to advocate for antiracism, equity, and inclusion.




Betsy Wattenberg

Associate Dean of Education and Student Engagement


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