Visions for a Just and Equitable Nutrition School

by The Friedman Justice League

This is an exciting time in the history of the Friedman School. Dean Mozaffarian has undertaken a school-wide strategic planning process, open to all levels of the school body. Albeit executed under a tight time frame, staff, faculty, and students are being given the unique opportunity to consider in-depth what makes Friedman great and how we can continue to make it even better.

Stirred by our school’s time of reflection and planning, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) has crafted a vision for justice at the Friedman School. As detailed in our mission statement, we are a student organization that seeks to make our community more diverse and inclusive, and to find ways for the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs. We convened in November to build a shared vision of a nutrition school that embodies these principles.

Discrimination and oppression are at the root of many food system challenges, domestically and globally. The Friedman School must understand these vital issues and provide leadership as they pertain to nutrition and food systems. Methodical action will help Friedman progress as an institution at the cutting edge of research and in the training of future leaders. To this aim, justice, equity, diversity, and cultural appreciation should be central to the school’s strategic planning process. In addition, long-term growth will require personal reflection, open dialogue, sustained action, and inclusive community building. We are pleased to present the results of our conversation and look forward to working together with the entire Friedman community to advance this vision.

Investment in and commitment to justice. Real change requires investment and commitment from all levels of leadership. Progress will rely on transparent and open dialogue that encourages all voices to be heard. Financial investment will also be integral to support these goals, including prioritizing equity and diversity education and training, accessing resources for effective diverse recruitment, and building community partnerships.

Cultural humility and openness. We seek more welcoming social spaces to promote dialogue and community. Recent events at the University of Missouri, Harvard University, Yale University, and others illustrate that racism is still present in higher education. We implore our own institution to take an active role in being anti-racist, starting with the humble acknowledgement that there is still work to be done. To build an open and inclusive environment within the Friedman campus, all students, faculty, and administrators must be trained in cultural competency, cultural humility, and social equity. Proper training will position us as better practitioners and representatives of the field of nutrition in our current and future work.

A diverse student body, faculty, and administration. Our working definition of diversity encompasses race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, and country of origin. To continue being a leader in our field, the Friedman School must be representative of the society we are a part of and work within, both domestically and globally. Institutions across the country are making bold promises around diversity and inclusion, serving as appropriate models from which to learn. For example, Brown University made the commitment to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025 through creation of a new postdoctoral fellowship program and a new young scholars program. It is our expectation that the Friedman School will make a similar commitment to the diversification of our student body, faculty, and administration.

Build justice into our curriculum. We see a gap in the course offerings that are centered on social justice frameworks and diverse cultural perspectives. The FJL diversity sub-committee is working with faculty to enhance teachings on justice in the classroom. We applaud those professors who already address these topics in their courses. We also recognize that this is an ongoing process, through which we hope to see more diverse guest lecturers, additional teaching modules to syllabi on key justice topics, and the inclusion of culture and diversity-related examples or readings to coursework. Changes can take many shapes and forms, but may include:

  • More nuanced race and class analyses
  • Emphasis on food justice and environmental justice
  • Stronger focus on human rights at all levels of the food system
  • More coverage of animal rights and cruelty
  • Emphasis on cultural influences of food and nutrition
  • Greater understanding and acknowledgement of structural racism in the U.S. food system

External partnerships that are diverse, inclusive, and community-oriented. As students and future professionals, we seek more exposure to community-based participatory research methods and projects that involve community interaction. Increased local partnerships would allow us to leverage our institutional strength and work with communities our school directly affects, such as Boston’s Chinatown. For example, Jumbo’s Kitchen partners with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Inc. to educate students at Josiah Quincy Elementary School about basic cooking, nutrition, and health. We look forward to more opportunities to learn from individuals and communities directly so that we may apply our classroom knowledge.

Additional external partnerships could assist with the recruitment of a more diverse student body, staff, and faculty. For example, establishing formal and informal collaborations with state-based undergraduate institutions and strengthening relationships with colleges and universities serving underrepresented minority groups (e.g., Historically Black Colleges and Universities) would assist with these efforts. Fostering relationships with local graduate schools that have well-established enrichment programs with Boston’s middle and high schools (e.g., Harvard School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion) would also be a worthwhile strategy to include underrepresented students in allied health professions such as those within the nutrition field.

FJL is thrilled that the Friedman School is undertaking a school-wide strategic planning process, and several of our members are currently serving on Investigative Working Groups (IWGs) to support this process. We hope that our working vision for justice at Friedman can supplement the school-wide process that continues to make Friedman great. FJL shares many similar goals with the IWGs, such as building upon our external partnerships, improving work-life balance and diversity, increasing the public impact of research from cell to society, improving the educational experience of students, and ultimately creating a cultural shift and transformational change within the Friedman community. We believe FJL adds value to the conversation by ensuring that a justice framework and issues of diversity and inclusion are considered fully. The Friedman School’s progress and continued public impact on nutrition and food in our increasingly diverse nation and globalized world depends on it.

Signed,

Sarah Andrus, MS, FPAN 2016

Madeline Bennett, MS, FPAN 2017

Stacy Blondin, PhD, FPAN 2016

Rebecca Boehm, PhD, AFE 2016

Alison Brown, PhD, FPAN 2017

Sarah Chang, MS/MPH, AFE 2016

Rebecca Harnik, MS, AFE 2016

Sam Hoeffler, MS, AFE 2017

Mehreen Ismail, PhD, FPAN

Caitlin Joseph, MS, AFE 2017

Micaela Karlsen, PhD, NEPI 2017

Kathleen Nay, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2018

Megan Lehnerd, PhD, AFE

Caitlin Matthews, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2017

Danielle Ngo, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2017

Nathaniel Rosenblum MS/MALD, AFE 2016

Rebecca Rottapel, MS/MPH, AFE 2016

John VanderHeide, MS/MA, AFE/UEP 2018

The Friedman Justice League encourages this conversation to continue among the broader Friedman community. We are compiling signatures for this vision, which will be used to contribute to the Friedman School’s strategic planning process. Please add your name if you believe this vision adequately reflects your views and would like to share your support, by December 11: http://tinyurl.com/fjlvisions2015.

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