by Martina Currenti

On October 18, 2023, our Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion took a significant step towards Northeastern’s path to belonging: we held our very first showcase of the I3 Fund. Over 300 attendees from all across the Northeastern campuses joined the event both online and on campus, at the Cabral Center in the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute, to celebrate the innovative, multidisciplinary scholarship.

The I3 Fund was originally created as a response to both President Aoun’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, and the findings from the 2021 Diversity and Equity Campus Climate Survey. Its primary purpose is to sustain collaborative projects whose approaches will help not only the promotion but also the advancement of our DEI vision. After a careful decision that involved the revision of 59 compelling and ambitious applications, we selected five projects that showcased the most promising examples of inclusive excellence. They were the following:

Transgender Health Equity and Belonging

This project focuses on attracting and retaining transgender students, staff, and faculty; it seeks to teach best practices in transgender inclusion to current students, staff, and faculty; it aims to ensure that students across all Northeastern campuses receive culturally responsive care from health services. A training in best practices related to transgender health equity will be created and published on Canvas; the first module, Issues in Transgender Health, is already available. Part of this project’s future objectives include the creation of a certificate program in Transgender Health within the Northeastern Network, as well as a certificate program for the general public, and a series of model policies to be adopted by the university network.

The project is carried out by Emily Zimmerman, PhD., CCC-SLP, Interim Chair and Associate Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, Sarah Young-Hong, MA., CCC-SLP, UG/G Program Director and Assistant Clinical Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, and AC Shillue-Goldberg, PhD., CCC-SLP, Part-Time Faculty member, Communication Sciences and Disorders Department.

Future Healthcare Leaders

This pilot project seeks to recruit and retain students coming from marginalized groups into healthcare fields, by increasing their sense of belonging and awareness of graduate pathways and health careers. The graduate pathways concern the College of Science and Bouvé College of Health Sciences undergraduate degrees, as well as graduate programs at Northeastern. The plan is to host 4 signature hybrid events targeting respectively alumni/graduates and students/faculty, the preparation for co-ops, the different health career opportunities, and how to prepare a successful application to graduate school. At the moment, they have hosted two events: a student organization event with over 29 attendees, and a Health Care Careers Faculty Speaker Event.

The researchers behind this project are Margarita DiVall, Clinical Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Bouvé College of Health Sciences), Jennifer Kirwin, Clinical professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Bouvé College of Health Sciences), Shan Mohammed, Clinical Professor and Assistant Dean for DEI Educational and Student Initiatives (Bouvé College of Health Sciences), Randall Hughes, Professor and Associate Dean for Equity (College of Science), Rachel Reisberg, Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Curriculum and Students (College of Science), and Linda Ayrapetov, Associate Director Student Programs (College of Science).

Inclusive Innovation Start Summit

This project aims to connect Northeastern students, faculty, and staff with local community members, with the objective to explore new and innovative ideas that will improve and make a positive impact on such communities. For the past 18 months, the Roux Institute’s Entrepreneurship Team has been testing the Start Summits model on Maine-based communities. In February 2023, it partnered with the Community Organizing Alliance on Social Innovation and held an event in Lewiston, a community recognized for its rich historical and immigrant background. Individuals were invited to develop and pitch their own business ideas to a jury. At the moment, the team has identified a number of potential community partners that would build a committee for the Start Summit program and design the next event, which is planned for Spring 2024.

The Inclusive Impact Innovation Start Summit was ideated by Anna Ackerman, Entrepreneurship Program Manager, Roux Institute, Terra Dunham, Temporary Entrepreneurship Program Manager, Roux Institute, and Alicia Jalbert, Manager of Community Partnerships, Roux Institute.

Peer Mentorship Inclusion Program for International Students

The main objective of this project is to design and pilot a peer-mentorship program in order to reduce inequity and promote altogether a sense of belonging among international students at Northeastern University. In May 2023, an initial mentor training was held, focusing on fostering amicability among mentors, establishing expectations, and informing them of the next steps. In September, a secondary training taught mentors how to be active and empathic listeners with the aid of a role-play video; following this event, mentors and mentees were assigned to each other via email, and consequently met at a kick-off event on September 9 in the Curry Student Center. The next part of this project will revolve around implementing the peer mentorship in the Department of Applied Psychology, following the current success and high participation rate of the program in the D’Amore McKim School of Business.

The project is carried out by Milena Braga, MA., Doctoral Student, Counseling Psychology, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Don Robinaugh, Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and Arabiye Aratola, Doctoral Student, School Psychology, Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

Social Justice Peer Mentorship Program

This project focuses on the creation of a peer mentorship program connecting faculty and alumni with undergraduate students, in a collaboration in social justice initiatives in the sciences. There are three different roles that alumni can have: a mentor, a content expert, and/or an outreach consultant. The first Social Justice Mentorship Dyad (“Marrying Public Health and Urban Planning”) involved a quality assessment of East Palo Alto Health Element, with a focus on tobacco control as an equity issue and a final production of a health equity report to East Palo Alto’s environmental justice profile. For the project’s next steps, there will be a social justice training and workshop material development, as well as the establishment of relationships among three new mentorship dyads, and the creation of new undergraduate social justice initiatives and projects.

The researchers behind this project are Maria Catrina Jaime, Assistant Adjunct Professor and Program Head of Public Health and Health Equity, Jared Young, Professor of Biology, Vala Burnett, Health Sciences Program Coordinator & Course Instructor, Charlene Betts-Ng, Associate Adjunct Professor of Biology, and Miki Hong, Assistant Adjunct Professor of Public Health and Health Equity. 

Inclusive Impact Innovation Fund 2024
Stay tuned for the announcement of the Inclusive Impact Innovation Fund 2024 application process, which will be shared with you shortly. We strongly encourage applications from new applicants across all Northeastern campuses, including applicants whose projects were not selected for the 2023 award. We look forward to hearing about new ideas that foster our DEI vision and promote a sense of belonging among Northeastern affiliates, now more than ever. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Inclusive Impact Innovation Fund and access the recording from our I3 Fund 2023 Showcase.