The Diversity Education and Research Center (DERC) is a hub for sharing and creating knowledge related to diversity research and inclusion in education and hiring. It is one of the keystones of diversity education led by Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) at UNC-Chapel Hill, and its ranks include a wide range of professionals—including faculty and undergraduate fellows—committed to promoting diversity at UNC. The DERC launched in 2013.
The DERC Faculty Fellows and Undergraduate Research Fellows programs are a way to provide faculty and students with an opportunity to consult with DMA and to combine research and leadership development with diversity advocacy. Two faculty fellows and three undergraduate fellows have joined the programs and are working on outreach and research projects.
During their term, each faculty fellow works with DMA on a specific diversity initiative, while conducting their own research. Enrique W. Neblett Jr., Ph.D. and Cara McComish, Ph.D. were both named DERC faculty fellows recently and join current faculty fellow Brian Hogan.
Dr. Neblett is an assistant professor of psychology and lab director of the African American Youth Wellness Laboratory at UNC. He studies the effects of racism-related stress on the health of African American and ethnic minority youth, and has been recognized by the Department of Psychology on several occasions for excellence in teaching and mentoring. He sees becoming a DERC fellow as an important way for him to expand his awareness of diversity and become better suited for leadership.
“My vision is to become a departmental and university leader in regard to maximizing diversity and inclusion,” Dr. Neblett says. “As a DERC fellow, I hope to grow the leadership and administrative skills that will be necessary to lead those departmental and university efforts, and cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for what it means to make a commitment to diversity and inclusion at the institutional level.”
Dr. McComish is an assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences in UNC’s School of Allied Health Sciences. She attended the University of Maine and Oklahoma State University, and later obtained her Ph.D. in speech and hearing sciences from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has worked as a speech pathologist and researcher in the field of communication disorders, and is currently part of a team reviewing developmental and autism screening practices in North Carolina.
All three faculty fellows will be developing a faculty learning community or FLC that will focus on diversity and an aspect of the faculty experience. FLCs, which are offered through the Center for Faculty Excellence, may be formal or informal meetings where participants engage in learning through instruction, dialogue, or a combination of the two. The goals of an FLC may range from providing a safe space for faculty to discuss difficult topics, to providing an environment to brainstorm and develop solutions.
The undergraduate research fellows hone their diversity administration and leadership skills under the guidance of professional mentors. Ajene Robinson-Burris and Joseph Lucido are both scholars with the Cultural Competence Leadership Institute (CCLI) and will be studying the role of similar cross-cultural outreach programs in the development of leadership and cultural competency. India Nicole Jenkins will be conducting an analysis of diversity data within and across universities.
Robinson-Burris is a sophomore majoring in global studies and philosophy, with a minor in classical humanities. As an RA and multicultural advisor, she strives to remain aware of diversity and inclusion issues in order to support her residential community. “I hope to gain further insight into the societal role of the university in relation to diversity,” she says. “What does society expect from a university student? What does society expect universities today to be teaching students about diversity?”
Lucido is a business administration major, also minoring in philosophy, politics, and economics. He was inspired to reach out cross-culturally by his work with CCLI, and by a summer study abroad experience in Southeast Asia. “As I learned this summer, one can never truly be finished learning about a culture,” he says. “Cultural competency can always be increased, strengthened, and broadened. Inclusion and diversity are integral to innovation.”
Jenkins is a psychology major with a minor in philosophy, politics, and economics. She is a member of the Campus Y, and asserts that “inclusion issues often fail to reach majority populations, and this is a major problem because it drives a larger gap between students of different demographics.” With her psychology background as a jumping-off point, she plans to immerse herself in research on minority students and the roles race, identity, and diversity play in their lives.
Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is an office in the division of Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement that provides university-wide leadership in creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive environment that empowers the development of engaged and culturally competent global citizens. DMA also serves as an institutional and educational resource to support the University’s mission by leading efforts to conceptualize, assess, and cultivate diversity and inclusion.