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Our Stories

We asked a few of our faculty, staff and students to consider the importance of diversity and inclusion in their own life and work. In considering the importance of diversity, additionally employees examine the value they place on understanding different cultures, equity and inclusion.

Navigate through their stories using the tabs below:

Dr. Dennis Gorman
Phuong B. Huynh, M.Ed.
Emily Martin
Victor Rivas
  • Dennis Gorman

    Dr. Dennis Gorman

    Department Head/Professor

    Growing up in Great Brittan, many things shaped Dr. Dennis Gorman's worldview. One of these things includes traveling between the US and Great Britain as a child. He reflected on all of the shops and entertainment in the US when he was young and considering how different everything seemed. However, now he notes that when he travels to different places even between different states that there is a lot of sameness.

    "The restaurants are the same and the stores are the same even the airports look the same. In part this is due to globalization but also the sameness to making things less interesting."

    Diversity of surroundings, ideas and identities is interesting. Diversity, from Dr. Gorman's perspective not only contributes to various identities, but also to different ideas and intellectual perspectives,

    "As a department head here, we have a very diverse department. I am not sure we actively sought to do that. We sought out intellectual diversity and ended up with many different people."

    In the department, Dr. Gorman and his team encourage the flow of ideas and people bringing different ideas to the table. From his perspective, the openness to different perspectives and encouragement of different ways of thinking cultivated a diverse and productive team.

    To build a diverse team openness is important, "There is a limitation if you recruit from one area rather than various perspectives." Recruitment is part of the diversity equation and this includes looking outside a small radius and into other locations and cultures.

    "Drawing on people's experiences and knowledge and also looking outside of one institution and even beyond the United States is what has helped our department be diverse. Diversity of thought is valuable and ensures that many different views and perspectives are represented."

    Where people live can also influence their worldview in addition to other aspects of identity. Considering different worldviews and equity issues, Dr. Gorman speaks from a place of experience in working with the faculty in his department. He acknowledges that his team is representative of various skills and experience levels. Everyone brings something different to the table. "I strive to ensure that there is an equitable division of labor on the team, making decisions is a collective process." He attributes this leadership style to supporting the work of his colleagues as well as ensuring everyone is sharing in the responsibilities of the department. Additionally, Dr. Gorman believes that sharing the decision making and responsibilities of the office are important to equality on his team.

  • Phuong B. Huynh

    Phuong B. Huynh, M.Ed.

    Director of Academic Assessment and Instructional Technology

    Assessment Coordinator

    Phuong was born in Thailand and is part Thai and part Vietnamese. In Thailand she described the experience of being "othered" because her name is Vietnamese. As a young teenager, she came to the US to live with her Vietnamese family in Houston. Yet she didn't speak Vietnamese and also was not proficient in English which led to additional feelings other isolation. Reflecting on these experiences Phuong explains,

    "Being a minority in an environment that is not very diverse sometimes you wonder if you are being held in the same standards as others and being treated the same in any environment. Inclusion has always been important because of personal experience. How I bring my personal experience to work is that I work with faculty and students from other backgrounds. Being a person who lived in a different country and speaking different languages, I have a better understanding of where they come from. I approach the problems differently because I understand that language barriers can create problems in completing day to day tasks. I understand the tools that are need to be successful because I've been through that."

    The personal and academic experiences add to her commitment to helping others. Phuong attributes much of her commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity to her experiencing in her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M and this encouraged Phuong to continue her education and pursue professional roles at the University. Phuong worked her way up from a student worker position, to a graduate assistant, to a full time position in the School of Public Health after achieving her Masters in Curriculum & Instruction. Being part of the School of Public Health has encouraged Phuong to continue her education and she is currently working towards her PhD in Technology Enhanced Instruction.

    "My boss has remained very supportive, even with the department changes, and SPH has a family like atmosphere."

    Phuong describes her work in instruction and education as also contributing to her work to support equity.

    "One part of my research is e-learning to provide more access in education. Education is a door for people to gain more information about inclusion and diversity. Ignorance comes from a lack of education. Providing more access to education through e-learning I believe that one-day people will have a better understanding of why we need to stop dividing through reporting."

    Phuong continues to consider the ways her own research and work contribute to a more individualized approach.

  • Emily Martin

    Emily Martin

    Research Associate

    Growing up in an established suburban area with a broad mix of people, Emily recognized from an early age that diversity can enrich lives rather than making them more difficult. She describes that "I am just one person and I think it is important to look outside of ourselves and see how we interact with the world." Both diversity and inclusion in all forms is an enriching part of life for Emily. She identifies the personal benefit she derived from growing up in a diverse environment that taught her the value of surrounding yourself with different ideas and people.

    Emily describes that her past and current work experience has shaped her view of diversity, inclusion and equity.

    "Before coming to academia I worked with organizations that served families. As a health educator I worked with a lot of low income and international families. I saw how cultural norms influenced how they deal with health issues. Their willingness to share their experiences really helped me understand where they were coming from and where they were currently at, to help them navigate the system and get their family’s needs met."

    She continued to express the importance of taking time to understand culture. Until you understand someone's culture, "you are not acknowledging a certain part of the puzzle."  Part of the puzzle for Emily is learning how someone's culture is different from her own.

    In addition to cultural competency, equity in the workplace and in society is highly valued by Emily.

    "I think that working towards equality is something we all need to be aware of and strive for to give people their best chance at flourishing. Recognizing differences is also an important part of being able to address equality; if we don't recognize that inequities are there then it is harder to close the gap."

    She continues to explain that an individual's environment can impact how we perceive equality. Emily's work and work environment promotes equity, but she realizes that outside of her work and inner circle, equity issues are not always openly discussed.

    To move the discussion on equity forward, Emily considers the role of her current work in health disparities. She says that, "we try to take a participatory approach to projects to make sure that evaluation and the work we are doing is inclusive. Everything must be culturally sensitive." Taking this approach Emily expresses the goal to support organizations in designing, implementing, and evaluating inclusive programs that promote diversity to close disparity gaps.

    "That's really how I see a portion of our work – contributing to and supporting people who are doing direct service and shouldering some of the burden to allow them to invest in the people part of their work instead of struggling with the evaluation and administrative parts."

    Collaborating with people that view the world differently is a key element of her work and value system.

  • Victor Rivas

    Victor Rivas

    Public Heath Master's Student

    Victor Rivas shared his experience growing up and attending a school where there was not much difference between the students. He didn't see a wide spectrum of experienced until he entered college.

    "I went to an all-boys catholic school and mainly Hispanic. It wasn't until college that I started thinking about how groups work and how people have different perspectives. Now working with different people, there is value in having a variety of different point of views."

    Diversity, from Victor's perspective, is incorporated as a cornerstone in the workplace and in graduate school. When working on group projects he explained that not everyone sees a problem or issue the same as you do. Victor describes a current team project conducting a community health needs assessment. He describes the various identities, ages, nationalities and experience levels that comprise the group.

    "We come from different walks of life. Taking it at face value we wouldn’t be able to make it work, but we are able to come together to complete the project to the best of our ability."

    On the surface, difference can seem divisive, yet Victor sees difference as an opportunity to learn more about himself and others and develop relationships. Personal and professional relationships are important to Victor. As he shared his workplace experiences, he considered the various perspectives of his current teammates.

    "I feel that when you have a work culture that fosters different opinions and backgrounds you can look beyond personal perspective. Not being open to other ideas will keep you from being able to see things from a different perspective. Equality overall is having a different point of view and mutual respect for people and their ideas."

    Being open to other ideas and points of view influences Victor's interest in understanding health disparities. When dealing with community health needs, health educators need to be able to appeal to the segment of the community a certain way. Victor emphasizes the importance of being able to gain their trust and take their perspective into account so they can be part of the solution for their community.

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