Come April 1, the School of Public Health will welcome its first assistant dean for diversity and inclusion: Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences Caroline Kuo. In her new role, Kuo will “manage, coordinate and centralize diversity and inclusion efforts” within the SPH, according to the University press release.
“I am thrilled to take on this leadership role,” Kuo said. As a member of the SPH’s Diversity and Inclusion Planning Committee, Kuo helped produce the school’s administrative Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan — a “living document” that she looks forward to implementing in her new position, she said.
Fox asked the planning committee to come up with “steps that we could take to address these issues (of diversity and inclusion) within the school,” she said, adding that creating a dean position to lead the implementation of the DIAP was a key recommendation.
Kuo emerged as a particularly qualified candidate for the new deanship due to the leadership she displayed while on the committee, said Terrie Fox Wetle, dean of the SPH. Kuo “considered each of our goals carefully. … She thought about graduate students, faculty, events and how to encourage diversity through all of those areas,” she added.
As she starts leading the implementation of the DIAP, Kuo’s main goals are to recruit more faculty members from historically underrepresented groups, recruit more women faculty members and build an environment in which current faculty members “are thriving and supported,” she said. She also hopes to create an inclusive environment for students by establishing a peer mentoring program, attracting more students from historically underrepresented groups and facilitating a feedback system for students to communicate with faculty members.
Kuo is currently collaborating with the SPH’s faculty members and researchers at the University of Cape Town to train HIV scientists in South Africa. Kuo said this work taught her that in order to have a successful diversity and inclusion initiative, “you have to make spaces for … really hearing what the community, faculty, students and staff want and need.”
Kuo said she has been involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives at the University since she arrived as a post-doctoral fellow in 2010 and joined the diversity committee for Brown’s Psychology Training Consortium. “I’m a first-generation (student), I’m a daughter of immigrants (and) English wasn’t my first language,” she said. “I know what the challenges are of going to an institution where you have to balance economic and family commitments. (These experiences) make the challenges and opportunities of this position very tangible to me.”
Kuo is “very tuned in to faculty issues,” said Joe Hogan, professor of public health and biostatistics and a member of the SPH’s Diversity and Inclusion Planning Committee. He added that Kuo work on the DIAP, which focused on faculty members, was “ambitious,” but she “is just the kind of person that gets things done.