School of Public Health’s Lauren Jones recognized for her contributions to advancing human rights, equity, and social justice

Virgil McDill | November 14, 2023

Lauren Jones, School of Public Health (SPH) director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), has received the University of Minnesota 2023 Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice award. As SPH’s director of DEI, Jones provides leadership and oversight for DEI initiatives across the school, including strategic planning and implementation, training, and programming efforts.

The Josie R. Johnson Award was established to recognize Johnson’s lifelong contributions to human rights and social justice both within and beyond her tenure at the University of Minnesota (UMN). The award honors UMN faculty, staff, and students who exemplify Johnson’s commitment to creating respectful and inclusive living, learning, and working environments.

“I’m really thankful for this recognition, particularly to those who helped with the nomination,” Jones says. “Uprooting systemic oppression is difficult but imperative. Although my team and I do DEI full time, this work is a collective and ongoing effort that involves everyone at our school— from the administrative leadership to the faculty, staff, and students. We can’t do public health work without addressing systemic racism. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished, and I hope we’ve been able to inspire other units across the University.”

During her tenure, Jones has undertaken a number of significant changes to SPH, including:

  • Leading the development of SPH’s Strategic Plan for Antiracism (SPAR), which states a commitment to “actively make diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and antiracism central to our operations and mission.”
  • Developing and delivering antiracism-focused sessions at SPH’s annual student orientation.
  • Collaborating with SPH’s human resources team to embed DEI into staff and faculty recruitment and professional development.

In a letter nominating Jones for the award, SPH Professors Kathleen Call and Rhonda Jones-Webb — who serve as co-founders and co-directors of SPH’s Health Equity Work Group (HEWG) — praised her efforts to foster diversity and equity at the school and in the broader UMN community.

“Lauren and her team are the powerhouse behind SPH’s many efforts to advance DEI, human rights, and social justice,” Call and Jones-Webb wrote. “Lauren’s gift for making oppressive structures and processes visible and her collaborative nature have made her a key change agent within and outside the School of Public Health.”

“Although Lauren’s DEI actions and successes fall within the purview of her job, we argue that as a Black woman dedicated to social justice and human rights, her workday never truly ends. Lauren’s contributions go above and beyond her daily work; she literally approaches her life and her work with this spirit of equity and justice,” wrote Call and Jones-Webb.

The award will be presented at the UMN Equity & Diversity Breakfast event on Wednesday, November 15.

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