UConn Health Graduate School DEI Committee Launches New Seminar Series

Dr. Renata Schiavo from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health delivered the inaugural lecture

Dr. Renata Schiavo (second from right) with UConn Health GS DEI committee members (L-R) Dr. Anne Delany, Dr. Helen Swede, and committee Chair, Dr. Leslie Caromile.

Last month, the UConn Health Graduate School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee launched its new seminar series with an inaugural presentation by guest speaker Dr. Renata Schiavo, senior lecturer at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.  Her talk on September 21 entitled “The Science of Trust: Implications in Educational Settings” provided a background for the importance of trust in laying the foundation for the work of a university, or any organization, towards creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment benefiting all members of the community.

“DEI is about changing narratives and mental models to build trust and foster belonging. The key to advancing DEI is to implement participatory approaches to policy and intervention design, which should also include bias mapping and anti-bias training,” explained Dr. Schiavo.

The presentation offered an overview of trust as a hallmark of human interaction, then delved more specifically into how building trust is essential to DEI and organizational growth. The message resonated with many of the seminar’s attendees:

“I found Dr. Schiavo’s research and perspectives enlightening regarding the idea that initiatives promoting inclusion are more likely to succeed when belongingness and trust exist within the community,” noted Dr. Helen Swede, Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences and leader of the PhD in Public Health program. “She suggested tangible pathways to achieve those two goals when, for example, developing a mentoring system for graduate students.”

Second-year Biomedical Science PhD student Brooke Dreyer, agreed. “I thought the lecture was very insightful.  I like how she suggested tailored action steps for different members within the community, from students to clinicians. I learned a lot about the relationship between trust, belongingness, and DEI initiatives.”

“What resonated most with me,” said Professor of Medicine Dr. Anne Delany, “is the idea that DEI needs to be a participatory process with emphasis on including and engaging students. Also, the concept that community engagement is a way to build trust in our institution and higher education in general, which may have the added benefit of increasing the pipeline of diverse students and faculty in the long run.”

In addition to the lecture, students, faculty, and staff also had an opportunity to spend time with Dr. Schiavo at the reception following, as well as in one-on-one meetings.

“I really enjoyed meeting students and faculty members and learning about their plans and commitment to advancing DEI within the institution via student engagement and new policies as well as opportunities and forums to continue the discussion on this important topic,” Dr. Schiavo said. “I was honored to be invited to give this lecture and contribute to the efforts of the Graduate School DEI Committee at UConn Health.”

In addition to her work at Columbia University, Dr. Schiavo is the founder and board president of the Board of Directors of Health Equity Initiative; principal at Strategies for Equity and Communication Impact (SECI) principal; and Editor in Chief of Journal of Communications in Healthcare strategies, Media, and Engagement in Global Health.

The seminar was sponsored by the UConn Health Graduate School DEI Committee with the generous support of the School of Medicine.

For more upcoming events visit the UConn Health Graduate School program’s website.