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According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, equality is defined as “each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities”, whereas equity “recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.”

Honoring diversity in Biobehavioral Health

The Department of Biobehavioral Health is home to students, faculty, and staff from around the globe, with unique backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. BBH welcomes these differences, as they facilitate the exchange of ideas from multiple viewpoints and encourage us all to not be ethnocentric in our thinking, be it in the classroom, in research settings, or in the workplace. Moreover, WE ARE a department of scientists, trained in the process of observing, asking questions, and seeking answers through tests and experiments.

Creating academic diversity

At its core, the variety of disciplines within BBH represent an achievement in creating academic diversity within a singular department. As such, we are positioned to be leaders in the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts at Penn State. However, while it is necessary that we continually restate our commitment to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community in BBH, change and growth do not happen without action. It is with this in mind, that the DEI committee was deliberate in the goals that they proposed and the activities they have undertaken this year.

Building community

First, we believe that the foundation for advancing DEIB efforts relies heavily on building a strong sense of community. In order to foster this, various events were held this year that encouraged members of the department to come together and engage with each other in non-work settings. Second, DEIB is not a concept that can be siloed into a singular committee, but rather should be integrated into all aspects of the department. Examples of this include ensuring diversity among the individuals presenting at colloquium and integrating DEIB information into World Campus courses. Lastly, as an academic unit we recognize the need for educational opportunities to increase cultural competence, including trainings, workshops, and other activities. This has been achieved in subtle ways, such as posting weekly images of important historical figures in the BBH building, and in more direct ways, including an end-of-year DEIB-specific faculty retreat, focused on issues such as best practices in recruiting and hiring and pathways to unconscious inclusion.

Bringing us together

As a department, our goal continues to be to find ways to bring us together rather than to divide us. WE ARE committed to sustained and meaningful actions that create communities free of racism, sexism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and religious intolerance where all can lead healthy lives. In our attempts to achieve this, the DEI committee will continue to emphasize the importance of efforts that are structural and not superficial, rejecting initiatives that are performative rather than productive. We recognize the infinite work required to move the needle of progress forward, but as Margaret Mead once famously wrote “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”