Founded in 2016, the Alliance for Visible Diversity in Science (AVDS) is a group of students, staff, postdocs, and faculty who work together to fulfill one central mission: to increase racial equity within the research programs at OHSU by recruiting, retaining, and most importantly supporting graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, staff, and faculty members from underrepresented backgrounds. AVDS achieves its mission by taking a two-pronged approach: working with those in power to change policies that uphold systemic and institutional racism, and building community in a grassroots fashion to improve the culture of inclusion.
AVDS advocates for change by meeting regularly with administrators and faculty to discuss and implement anti-racist policies. In late 2017, we were recognized by administrative leaders within the OHSU School of Medicine (SoM) for our on-campus advocacy work and asked to create recommendations for improving diversity and inclusion, which we presented in March 2018. The SoM has partially acted on some of our recommendations by creating a part-time Dean of Diversity position (Dr. Derick Du Vivier, FTE 0.3) and compiling the first annual diversity report. Additionally, the Chief Research Officer, with the Vollum Institute and the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, internally funded a pilot Neuroscience Postbaccalaureate training opportunity (extramural funding pending). We have also built relationships with individual departments and programs by establishing liaisons, allowing our group to better understand and influence program/department racial equity policies, procedures, and culture and gather data about these initiatives. We hope that this data can be synthesized and utilized for best practices. We continue to engage with administrators through our new policy committee, and recently began creating a faculty coalition to cater to faculty needs in the DEI space.
To promote community-building, AVDS organizes several well-attended events each year to educate and engage with the OHSU community. We host a monthly happy hour; weekly book club discussions; monthly game nights; quarterly documentary showings; an annual invited speaker; and more. Additionally, AVDS is involved in recruitment events with most of the graduate research programs each year. We welcome each applicant who interviews (170+ recruits in 2020 alone) and offer our group as a resource.
AVDS was founded by four individuals. Nearly four years later, we have an executive board of eight members, five committees with a sixth in development, and over 40 active members. We frequently collaborate with a number of groups, including the SoM, the Vollum Institute, Graduate Student Organization, Women In Science PDX, the OHSU Black Employee Resource Group, OHSU Graduate Programs, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, OnTrack, and many more. We receive regular funding from SoM, the Vollum Institute, and GSO. Our monthly newsletter has over 400 subscribers, and we are active on social media. We recently created and hosted a virtual community forum where our members presented on allyship and dismantling white supremacy, which was attended by over 250 people.
Our mission is far from over, but we hope that recent events have opened many eyes to a problem which we have recognized for years: that our institution, along with so many others, needs drastic change to break out of the holding pattern that has kept systemic racism alive for centuries. With our community supporters, we continue our efforts to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy, and continue to work towards a better institution.
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