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Equity and Social Justice Agenda: Actions & Initiatives

african-am-mom-and-midwife

MCU is a committed ally to all underrepresented individuals and families who seek access to midwifery care or who strive to become midwifery providers within their communities.  Through collaboration and humble listening, we will continually strive to remove existing barriers to recruitment, retention, support, and success at MCU as well as advance our program and profession in achieving inclusivity, cultural humility, and health equity. In doing so, we hope to broaden the reach and benefits of midwifery care for all families and effect widespread social change in the midwifery profession.

Our ongoing actions are organized into three broad areas: 1) Institutional Integration; 2) Curriculum Integration & Professional Development, and 3) Financial & Academic Student Support. Read on to learn more about efforts in each of these broad areas.

Institutional Integration

We strive to integrate equity and social justice into the very fabric of our organization, from policies and procedures to guiding position statements and collaborative leadership.

Equity & Social Justice Position Statement

Our institutional Equity & Social Justice Position Statement guides the Midwives College of Utah in the action-oriented priorities of our equity and social justice agenda.

MCU is committed to the vision that every family deserves a midwife. The MCU curriculum is firmly grounded in the unique and profound power of the Midwives Model of Care™ as a primary pathway for improving outcomes and eliminating inequities for pregnant persons and their babies during the childbearing year.

Read MCU’s Equity and Social Justice Position Statement.

Diversity & Inclusivity at MCU – Syllabus Statement 

In every syllabus at MCU, we have placed a diversity and inclusivity statement that communicates the institutional expectations and responsibilities of the MCU learning community.

Statement: MCU is committed to the vision that every family deserves a midwife. The MCU curriculum is firmly grounded in the unique and profound power of the Midwives Model of Care™ as a primary pathway for improving outcomes and eliminating inequities during the childbearing year. MCU is committed to undertaking a holistic approach to inequity and diversity initiatives within our educational system and profession at-large, working with internal and external stakeholders to identify barriers and implement best practices that contribute to healthy and educational equity for all. Students are expected to approach the MCU curriculum and their learning with critical thinking, non-judgment, and self-reflexivity in commitment to cultural humility, compassion, and equity practices. Students are expected to respect diverse ways of being in the world, create inclusive classroom spaces, and honor the unique lived experiences of all individuals. To learn about MCU’s commitment and expectations of our students, faculty, and staff, please read the MCU’s Equity and Social Justice Position Statement.

Equity & Social Justice Committee

MCU has a standing Equity & Social Justice Committee that, in collaboration with others and in deeply listening to leadership of historically marginalized communities provides guidance in MCU’s institutional commitments to social justice and equity initiatives, including the creation of policies and procedures, professional development opportunities, student curriculum integration, and community-led partnerships.

With guidance and initiative from the Equity and Social Justice committee, MCU has completed the following initiatives between 2018-2019:

  1. Senior Leadership and the Social Justice Committee met for a Reflective Structured Dialogue to support commitment and values alignment to social justice and equity.
  2. The Equity & Social Justice Position Statement was updated to reflect MCU’s continued growth and commitment.
  3. In an effort to guide the MCU community to use language that is inclusive of all people, a Gender Inclusivity Medical Terminology Guide was developed.
  4. To communicate the institutional expectations and responsibilities of the MCU learning community, an MCU Gender Inclusivity Statement was created and published.
  5. Equity and inclusion topic experts were invited and paid by MCU to speak to staff and faculty during CEU-approved sessions. The experts have lived experience as midwifery students, midwives, and/or educators who are within the identified cultural group. To encourage faculty members to address implicit bias and develop greater safety in the classroom setting, follow up learning sessions with classroom-based learning vignettes were and continue to be facilitated by the Social Justice and Equity Committee. Topics include:
    1. Fall 2018 “Gender Inclusivity: Gender, Sex and Midwifery, Oh My!” Indra Lusero
    2. Winter 2019 “Equity in Midwifery Education: Nurturing and Supporting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in the Education Setting” Carmen Mojica, Autumn Cavendar
    3. Summer 2019 “Socioeconomic Status and First Generation Students” Christian Smith, Madeleine Shernock
    4. Ableism and Disability (Fall 2020)
    5. Religion and Spirituality in the Education Setting (2021)

MCU Non-Discrimination Policy

MCU has a robust non-discrimination policy that applies to all MCU students, faculty, staff, administrators, and affiliates.

Ethos Statement – The Midwives College of Utah strives for an intentional community by investing in life-giving, life-affirming, and life-sustaining relationships.  We recognize that a strong community is grown through conscious interaction with others and a commitment to the growth, development, and well-being of every other member of our community.  Ongoing critical self-reflection of our attitudes, behaviors, and values facilitates organic growth of a thriving community. Each member of the MCU community will commit to:

  • Accept responsibility for the well-being, equitable treatment, and success of each person;
  • Act ethically and with integrity in all interactions;
  • Continually strive to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitude, and self-awareness needed to be responsible members and leaders of our community;
  • Establish relationships of trust and honesty where the integrity of each person is respected;
  • Honor the worth of everyone, including their rights to self-determination, privacy, and confidentiality;
  • Respect the identities each person holds and strive to eliminate the effects of socialized biases;
  • Treat each other with courtesy, openness, understanding, and forgiveness;
  • Use our recognition of power, privilege, difference, and discrimination to actively address issues of equity and inclusion;

We commit to making this a living statement and work to create the community to which we aspire.  Please read MCU’s Non-Discrimination Policy.

Admissions Procedures

MCU engages in a best practice process known as Holistic Admissions for both our undergraduate and graduate programs. Holistic Admissions help us to promote equity in our admission processes and in supporting a diverse student body. Our applicant statistics identify an upward trend in those that self-identify as applicants of color.

MCU’s application process also allows applicants to identify pronouns. For the Fall 2020 applicant pool, 1 of 45 students identified using they/their pronouns. At our most recent Admissions Open House for Winter 2021 trimester 3 of the 18 attendees identified as using they/them pronouns.

Faculty and Staff Hiring

MCU has utilized a modified Search Advocates (SA) process for staff and faculty hiring. This best practice initiative is intended to promote integrity and equity during hiring.  A Search Advocate framework involves the implementation of an extensive, in-depth, full-cycle process that capitalizes on social justice principles and best practices in inclusive hiring for diverse candidate pools.

Courageous Conversations

Courageous Conversations is a drop-in, monthly gathering open to all faculty, staff, and students of MCU. The purpose of the group is to facilitate critical dialogue about issues of inequity, privilege, and oppression across all identities and experiences, including but not limited to race and ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, disabilities, and first-generation college students. A special emphasis of this forum is placed on having color-brave conversations and moving from white guilt to white responsibility.  This group is intended to be a safe space where critical dialogue is fostered, voices of marginalized communities are prioritized and listened to, and active allies are cultivated.

Policies and Procedures

Between 2018 and 2020, the following equity policies and procedures were enacted:

  1. MCU’s Preferred Name Policy seeks to provide an inclusive and non-discriminatory environment by making it possible for students to use a preferred name and gender on college records that are other than their legal documents state.
  2. The Concern and Resolution Reporting Form is an informal, anonymous process designed to get feedback from students, faculty, and staff to improve the community experience at MCU. Concerns may be used to influence MCU-wide policy and procedure changes and/or professional development opportunities for MCU staff, faculty, and/or students.
  3. The admissions fee policy was restructured to be more equitable.
  4. The grade replacement policy allows a degree-seeking student with a non-passing grade to retake a course and have the non-passing grade excluded from the GPA calculation and replaced with the grade earned on the second attempt.

Curriculum Integration & Professional Development

As an educational institution, we are committed to being lifelong learners and teachers of the principles and practices of equity, social justice, anti-oppression, and anti-racism. The following classes are offered to our students as they progress through their midwifery education.

COMM 1010 Mindset & Dialogue in Relationship, Organization, and Community Transformation (1 cr.)

Mindset and dialogue promote an environment where we can see others in new ways, and communicate through the most difficult, controversial, and risky issues. Together, mindset and dialogue open the possibility of transformation within relationships, organizations, and communities. The introduction of this course at the beginning of a student’s experience at MCU is to give students the foundation to explore and practice these skills and models throughout their educational journey at MCU.

MCU’s vision is to graduate midwives that are prepared to navigate conflict in new ways, becoming change agents for transformative communication within the communities and organizations within their sphere of influence. We believe as our profession does conflict differently we will more effectively move toward a tipping point of change and transformation to dismantle disparities and inequities in care and outcomes for historically marginalized birthing families.  

SOSC 1010: Equity and Anti-Oppression in Midwifery Care: Understanding Difference, Power, & Privilege (1.5 credits)

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the foundational concepts of equity, anti-oppression, and cultural humility in midwifery care, and to engage critical learning of how difference, power, discrimination, and privilege intersect to produce documented disparities in perinatal health outcomes and practices in the United States. Students will have the opportunity to study and explore three broad areas of cultural humility, equity and (anti)oppression practices, and their impact on maternity care through historical and current sociopolitical frameworks: 1) Social identities, racism, and privilege; 2) Health disparities, inequities, and inequalities; and 3) Cultural humility and equity care models. Collectively, students will acquire foundational skills necessary for the provision of culturally safe care and the actualization of anti-oppression midwifery professional practices—in commitment to access and equity in perinatal health for all childbearing persons.

SOSC 2010: Cultural Safety in Midwifery Care (2 credits)

Building off of a foundation of cultural competence and culturally safe care from SOSC 1010, students will further explore difference, power and privilege as it relates specifically to midwifery care in the childbearing year. Students will strengthen skills necessary for the provision of culturally competent care and the actualization of anti-oppression midwifery professional practices — in commitment to equity in maternal-child health for all childbearing families.

SOSC 2060: Providing Safe & Respectful Care to LGBTQIA+ Families (2 credits)

This course will delve deeper into providing high-quality exceptional care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual individuals. It will spend time addressing the inequities and unique stressors that each of these populations may face in their day to day lives including during the pre-pregnancy planning, conception process, pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum period. This course invites a commitment to authenticity, openness, humility, and inspires a dedication to personal growth and deeper learning. Topics will include: conception obstacles and options, IVI and IUI methods and selecting a donor, surrogacy and working with surrogates and gay individuals and couples, gender identity and the specific needs of transgender clients, testosterone needs during conception and pregnancy, chest feeding and potential SNS needs, developing language that is safe for the client, utilizing language on forms that is safe for all clients, systemic oppression and what is our role in advocating for change, and developing skills to become the best care provider we can be for LGBTQIA+ clients.

SOSC 2020: Birthing Justice (2 credits)

This course introduces students to birth justice movements. Through an experiential and service-learning framework, the course aims to bridge theory with practice, bringing together MCU students with applied birth justice activists across the nation in a collective learning environment. The transformation that arises in and through our collective learning environment will lead students to further understand and engage in birth justice movements as Midwives of Excellence℠.

Curriculum Development and Syllabus Writing

There are several resources and requirements that curriculum writers engage in in order to integrate equity and social justice practices into each and every course at MCU. Curricula development is overseen on a school-wide level and assessed for continued student developmental activities and assignments.  Class syllabi are written and updated by faculty who have undergone the professional development described below. Each syllabus is then reviewed for equity and Inclusion, as well as evidence-informed practice and pedagogy using a checklist tool adapted from current national standards. 

Professional Development

All faculty and staff must engage in professional development each year. Professional development, including ongoing learning around social justice and equity, is identified on an individual basis with each employee.  In this way, each person working at MCU is individually supported towards increasing knowledge about individual, organizational, and community bias with personal identification for further development.

MCU has a longstanding commitment to ongoing and required anti-oppression, anti-racism, and cultural humility education for faculty, staff, and affiliates of MCU. Since 2017, we have invested time, attention, and $13,600 to pay for content experts and provide schoolwide social justice professional development opportunities.

In the 2017 through 2018 academic years, a three-tiered approach to curriculum integration and professional development was implemented, with the goal of advancing the breadth and depth of our equity and social justice commitments:

  1. Tier 1: Enhanced anti-oppression and anti-racism required training for faculty (academic and field), the board of directors, and staff;
  2. Tier 2: Leadership Council undergoes a series of extensive, in-depth training on anti-oppression and anti-racism work;
  3. Tier 3: CEU program development for MCU affiliates and the wider MCU community on anti-oppression and anti-racism in education and midwifery practice.  (24 MCU Contact hours for 3 phases )

This Racial Literacy Training focused on the foundations of race, access, and equity in midwifery education. The trainers were Courtney L. Everson, PhD, and Marijke van Roojen, LM, CPM, MPH. The purpose was to meaningfully advance MCU’s commitment to social justice and equity in midwifery education and care, MCU views institution-wide training on racial literacy, access, and equity as a necessity. In the 2019-2020 academic years, this work continues with the equity and inclusion education and facilitated discussions noted above. To provide timely and transformative leadership and consider what policies, procedures, and practices MCU can stop, start, and continue in order to be more socially just and inclusive, MCU Senior Leadership attended the three day American University 2020 Summer Institute: Antiracist Pedagogy, Practice & Policy: Uplifting Women & Girls of Color offered by the American University School of Education.  We will continue to seek opportunities to learn from Black leaders in national educational forums.

Financial & Academic Student Support 

In listening to the words of those who are marginalized and underrepresented in the midwifery profession, we acknowledge the deep need for financial pathways that support access to education for diverse communities.

Briana Blackwelder Equal Access Scholarship Fund

african-am-mom-and-newbornMCU believes that all individuals who seek midwifery education should be able to access it.  Unfortunately, too often, this is not a reality, and midwifery education, along with the midwifery profession at-large, suffers without diverse communities and representation.  We want to continue to be the change we wish to see in the midwifery community; therefore, in our commitment to reducing financial barriers for students, MCU has contributed, since 2012, $157,000 for tuition scholarships and emergency relief funds.

The Social Justice and Health Equity Scholarship supports MCU’s goals of advancing social justice and health equity in midwifery education and the profession-at-large. This scholarship is for those who have experience in, and dedication towards, advancing social justice and health equity within midwifery and maternal-child health realms with a focus on underrepresented individuals creating community-led change.

We offer two scholarships: 1) Social Justice and Health Equity Scholarship; and 2) Equal Access Scholarship. If eligibility is maintained, scholarship recipients receive full-tuition relief for up to four years. The Social Justice and Health Equity Scholarship supports MCU’s goals of advancing social justice and health equity in midwifery education and the profession-at-large. This scholarship is for those who have experience in, and dedication towards, advancing social justice and health equity within midwifery and maternal-child health realms with a focus on underrepresented individuals creating community-led change.

The Equal Access Scholarship strives to advance MCU’s goals of increasing the diversity and inclusivity of midwifery education and the profession-at-large. This scholarship is specifically for underrepresented communities with a focus on aspiring midwives of color.

Learn more here about the Briana Blackwelder Equal Access Scholarship Fund.

Recipients to-date

To date, we have provided eleven full-tuition scholarships with ongoing renewals to eligible awardees. These scholarships have all gone to People of Color. In Summer 2019, we saw the first graduating recipients of this scholarship. Their success as aspiring midwives and new midwives serving their communities is truly inspirational.

HRSA Grant

MCU believes that all individuals who seek midwifery education should be able to access it and that every family deserves a midwife. To pursue this vision, in 2020, MCU submitted our first federal grant application through The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program. The SDS Program increases diversity in the health professions by providing awards to be used for scholarships for under-resourced students including those who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups.  We were not awarded a grant this time around, but the experience gave us invaluable knowledge about the data and measures of success that we need to track in order to apply again.  

Title IV Funding

MCU’s continued approval to administer federal financial aid and military veteran benefits provides pathways for midwifery education to students who were previously unable to pay for the cost of education out of pocket.  MCU has been administering Title IV funds since January 2013 and VA funds since 2011.  Retention rates have improved dramatically since this barrier has been removed.

Student Services & Student Life, Equity, and Access

The mission of the Student Services and Student Life, Equity, and Access departments is to support the development of Midwives of Excellence by fostering a unique culture of connection that promotes meaningful relationships and peer bonding. The Directors of Student Services and Student Life, Equity, and Access oversee smaller communities of students as well as supporting affinity groups within the school. Peer-led student support groups have long been a cornerstone for many MCU students, providing accountability and emotional support, as well as promoting program completion. 

MCU Student of Color Demographics

MCU is committed to ensuring diverse and inclusive faculty, staff, and student bodies. Our demographics for student race/ethnicity are self-reported; some individuals choose not to disclose, and their data are not included herein. We intend to improve our demographic data collection systems to include varying markers of social identities and locations in the near future in order to accurately and completely understand multiple dimensions of intersectionality at MCU.  For the academic year 2019-20, 30% of all enrolled students identify as people of color.

Self-identified Race and Ethnicity of MCU Student Body

Race and Ethnicity

2016-2017

2017-2018

Students of Color (Total):

15%

27.94%

African American/Black:

5%

11.3%

Latina/Latino or Hispanic

9%

8%

Asian

0%

0.37%

Pacific Islander

0%

0.37%

Native American/Alaskan Native

1%

2.6%

Multiple Races

No data available

5.3%

Race unknown or undeclared

4%

4%

White

81%

72%

Updated 6.2020

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