Diversity is an important pillar in Life Chiropractic College West’s strategic plan, which is designed to move the college forward through the year 2025. As part of Life West’s focus on this important value, the college hosted Rushika Patel, PhD, at its most recent Friday seminar.
Dr. Patel currently serves as the University of Michigan School of Nursing’s first Chief Inclusion Officer. She holds a doctorate degree in Educational Policy Studies and Organizational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with an emphasis in Global Studies in Education and a master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with an emphasis in Education for Social Justice.
Through the past year, Dr. Patel has served as a consultant at Life West as the college looked at optimizing its diversity and inclusion processes. Her presentation to the students included discussions on her findings during her consultancy, as well as explanations on how faculty, students and staff can identify and overcome unconscious biases.
“The research shows that if we can have conversations about race, about gender, about sexual identity, about politics, then we can actually move an institution forward,” she said in her opening remarks. “If we cover over these contradictions, we actually don’t make very much progress at all.”
“As well as embedding this process in our culture,” added Life West Executive Vice President Anatole Bogatski, who introduced Dr. Patel at the seminar, “we want to make sure Life West is a safe and inclusive campus.”
The topic of unconscious bias was a key point in Dr. Patel’s speech. Her findings indicated that a majority of uncomfortable situations on campus were caused by remarks made by people unaware of their effects on members of other genders, different races or diverse backgrounds. In addition, she noted how moved she was by the reactions of those she spoke with about these matters.
“At the same time they’ve been hurt, they’re also understanding that maybe other people don’t know what they’re doing,” Dr. Patel explained. “They’re willing to take the responsibility, even after they’ve been hurt, to educate others, to bring voice to their experiences, and to address those situations with compassion and empathy. I find that really, really inspiring.”
The seminar included several different exercises designed to bring recognition to unconscious biases that come to life in various situations. With the goal of identifying and eliminating those biases in mind, Dr. Patel explained that it does not take long for people to make judgments about others based on first impressions.
“Research shows that people, in five seconds, can make a determination about whether or not they can trust somebody,” she said. “In five seconds, we make judgments about people and whether they’re kind, competent, and if we can trust them or not.”
In closing, Dr. Patel urged those in attendance to practice self-reflection based on their own experiences. Noting that each person’s upbringing is different, she stressed the need for each Life West community member to identify their own biases and figure out areas for personal growth.
“All of us have very different biases, based on the conditions in which we’ve grown up and the things that have happened to us,” she said. “You have to figure out which biases are yours, because it’s not the same for everybody.”
The Strategic Plan for 2019-2025 provides guidance and direction for Life Chiropractic College West, identifying seven strategic initiatives and a vision to Create a Brighter Future for Humanity. The plan’s second initiative centers around diversity and inclusion, with the goal of fostering a campus climate and college community that respects and embraces people from all walks of life.
“A culture of diversity and inclusion will prepare the graduate to practice and serve with individual sensitivity, compassion, cultural awareness and a love for all humanity,” the plan reads. “This will be demonstrated in the campus culture for our students and all Life West employees to experience and follow.”