The UNC MPA program strongly supports the values of diversity and inclusion and affirms the importance of instilling these values in the next generation of public service leaders.
We believe it is crucial for leaders to represent the diversity of the communities they serve and to seek to understand the varying needs and cultural expressions of the individuals within those communities.
We also seek to incorporate the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the Master of Public Administration curriculum for the benefit of our students, faculty, and staff.
The program’s 2021 Strategic Plan identified several goals related to DEI, including the recruitment of a faculty member with expertise in this area. Together with the School of Government and The Graduate School, the program is committed to continuous improvement in creating and strengthening a culture of belonging while recognizing the individual strengths of every person in our MPA community.
Diversity of race, ethnicity, background, and experience among MPA classmates enriches the academic environment of the program and the personal development of each student. Nearly 25% of our current students identify as coming from an underrepresented ethnic group.
To support our goal of enrolling students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, the program has established the Diversity in Public Service Scholarship and Activities Fund. The scholarship provides support for ongoing efforts to enroll a diverse group of students, while the activities fund promotes programming for students that will enhance their ability to provide leadership to diverse communities once they embark on their public service careers.
Both on-campus and online students have the opportunity to get involved with the MPA Diversity Committee, which strives to bring visibility to diversity issues, provide knowledge of diversity issues, and encourage comfort and understanding when addressing diversity issues.
One additional way the MPA program strives to create a welcoming and supportive environment for all students is through Identity Groups. These groups provide a space for historically marginalized or underrepresented students with similar backgrounds, identities, or interests to connect with and support one another. Students are encouraged to connect with one of the existing groups or create their own. Current groups include LGBTQIA+, Students of Color/BIPOC Caucus, and Women in Public Administration.
The MPA program uses a competency-based curriculum to ensure that students are obtaining necessary knowledge, skills, and other characteristics to help them become public service leaders. DEI principles are woven throughout the curriculum and are predominant in several courses. Students are exposed to the program’s public service values of accountability and transparency; respect and equity; efficiency and effectiveness; and professionalism and ethical behavior within this competency framework.
In 2021 the School of Government and UNC MPA made a public commitment to elevating diversity and inclusion with the creation of a faculty position focused on DEI work. Soon after, the faculty welcomed Kimalee Dickerson as an assistant professor of public leadership. Professor Dickerson is an established researcher and presenter on many aspects of equity in public administration, including organizational climate for diversity, antiracism and equity policies in public schools, and equity in water quality.
UNC MPA regularly invites external DEI experts to share their knowledge and to facilitate training opportunities designed to create awareness and enhance classroom discussion in this space. Recent topics have included the integration of DEI principles in course syllabi and creating a classroom environment that is a welcoming and inclusive space for all students regardless of identity.
MPA faculty and staff are also encouraged to attend university-wide DEI training opportunities, including Safe Zone, Green Zone, Mental Health FirstAid, Haven Training, Safe Zone Gender & Identity Expression, and UndocuCarolina.
As part of its ongoing commitment to creating an equitable work environment for faculty and staff, the School of Government has created a Committee for an Inclusive Workplace, which includes several MPA faculty and staff members. Members of the committee are passionate about creating a work environment in which all employees feel respected, valued, and heard, regardless of who they are or where they work in the organization. Initial committee actions have focused on three key areas for assessment and improvement: community building and training, climate, and human resources policies and procedures.
In 2018 the School created the Diversity Impact Award to recognize projects or initiatives that foster an inclusive and welcoming environment for employees, students, and/or the public officials and citizens whom the School serves.
The School of Government publishes the Diversity Gazette newsletter monthly. Each issue contains insights from a faculty or staff member designed to encourage reflection and stimulate conversation on DEI-related topics. Recent issues have focused on exploring ways to become an effective ally, working with people who have different neurological and cognitive pathways, and discussing how much privilege affects us all.