Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the news

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Wayne State awarded millions in order to battle hypertension in Detroit

Wayne State University has been awarded millions of dollars to study high blood pressure in Detroit residents. The new project will deploy mobile health clinics to Detroit neighborhoods over the next four years to better understand the factors that contribute to hypertension in residents. It's part of a $20 million initiative to better understand the health disparities between Black and White Americans. The plan is to identify health plans for residents with high blood pressure and help cultivate a personal regiment that will coach them toward a healthier lifestyle. Data collected from these plans will better help researchers understand what role environmental factors contribute in the overall health outcome of Detroiters. Wayne State will be using $2.6 million for the program. A professor of emergency medicine at Wayne State that is leading the program says access to health care, food insecurity, availability of healthy food, shelter, and exercise are all major factors in high blood pressure. "To achieve health equity, effective strategies must address negative (social determinants of health) that are root causes of racial disparities in health," said Dr. Phillip Levy. Levy said that while lifestyle changes could better improve the health outcomes for people with high blood pressure, implementing these changes has not been easy.
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Critical race theory: politics enters the classroom

According to experts, critical race theory is really an academic and legal theory first developed in the 1970s in response to the civil rights movement. According to those railing against it, it will teach young students they are racists and White supremacists, and rewrite Black History and those of “others,” including indigenous people. “The goal of critical race theory is that people existed besides the typical European narrative that we see in text books,” said Truman Hudson, Jr., EdD, instructor, College of Education, Wayne State University. “We don’t need to have separate narratives; we’re the United States, yet we’re not united. We’re teaching separateness. It’s looking through a multicultural lens. It does not look at Black, White, Arab, Jew – it lifts up everyone’s story. As long as we continue to look at education and race through a separate lens, we’ll end up with separate and unequal, which is what happened. It hurts all kids when we don’t look at race through a culturally sustaining pedagogy. We’re missing all these stories, the richness by all these people that don’t look like the people in these textbooks. The richness adds to all of our lives when we build on this space. It shouldn’t be us versus them. Our future generations need to know. It’s okay to say the country is an experiment that we’re still trying to figure out – it’s okay to make people feel uncomfortable talking about it. The amendments to the Constitution show growth. They helped establish justice, of where we want to go. Education helps us grow, and the more we learn, we can continue to grow.”
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Has the pandemic put an end to the SAT and ACT?

Many students never made it through the test-center door; the pandemic left much of the high school class of 2021 without an SAT or ACT score to submit. Liberal arts colleges, technical institutes, historically black institutions, Ivies — more than 600 schools switched to test-optional for the 2020-21 application season, and dozens refused to consider test scores at all. To choose among all those college hopefuls, many institutions took a holistic approach — looking at factors such as rigor of high school curriculum, extracurriculars, essays and special circumstances — to fill in the gaps left by missing test scores. Take the case of Wayne State University in Detroit, where before Covid, high school GPA and standardized test scores were used as a cutoff to hack 18,000 applications down to a number the university’s eight admissions counselors could manage. “It was just easier,” says senior director of admissions Ericka M. Jackson. In 2020, Jackson’s team changed tack. They made test scores optional and asked applicants for more materials, including short essays, lists of activities and evaluation by a high school guidance counselor. Assessing the extra material required assistance from temporary staff and other departments, but it was an eye-opening experience, Jackson says. “I literally am sometimes in tears reading the essays from students, what they’ve overcome … the GPA can’t tell you that.”

WSU's Nikki Wright lauded for efforts to give back

As a little girl on vacation visiting her lawyer uncle’s home in Mississippi, Nikki Wright would wander through his study in wide-eyed awe, mesmerized by the endless rows of legal tomes lining the bookshelves, daydreaming of a future where she would follow in his footsteps. Her uncle, Reuben V. Anderson, went on to become Mississippi’s first African American state Supreme Court judge, and Wright returned home to Detroit and transformed the girlhood aspirations Anderson had inspired into inspiring professional triumphs. After earning both her undergraduate and law degrees from Wayne State and then clerking for only the second Black man to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Fred L. Banks, Jr., Wright went into private practice as a litigation attorney, honing both a sharp skill for investigation and a strong desire to give back to the community that nurtured her. These days, Wright serves as assistant vice president in the Wayne State Office of Equal Opportunity, her skills and passions having dovetailed at the same university campus where she pursued her earliest dreams. Among other things, she supports the university’s compliance efforts in investigations involving discrimination and harassment, and helps train faculty and students about these issues. Wright also helps the university ensure that WSU’s hiring committees are diverse. A member of the Social Justice Action Committee, Wright also helped the university draft recommendations aimed at boosting diversity, inclusion and equity as related to faculty hiring and retention. “I saw this job as a way for me to give back to the university,” Wright said about her decision to leave private practice for her alma mater. “Obviously, I could go into the public sector and potentially make a great deal more money, but I really wanted to take a step into a different direction and help a university that helped me. So it really came full circle for me. And that was the right decision because it allows me to give back, something I really enjoy.” Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Recently, Wright was among several other women honored by the Michigan Chronicle with its “Women of Excellence” Award. The award recognizes African American women throughout metro Detroit for their leadership and public service. “When they selected me, I was really happy,” said Wright. “This type of work is really important work, and it supports the university, it supports our community. And the Michigan Chronicle is all about recognizing the work that African Americans do. It was nice that they recognized me. “ Her work at Wayne State, she says, is an extension of the efforts she’s made throughout her career to serve as a positive influence on both the community and individuals. In addition to being active in her church, Hope United Methodist, Wright has provided pro bono legal work for organizations such as the Horatio Williams Foundation, which supports local youth through mentoring, tutoring and afterschool activities. She has done charity work for the public school systems in both Detroit and elsewhere, providing resources for needy children and families. She’s also served as in-house and outside legal counsel for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. And while none of the work is easy, the load grew especially heavy in 2020 as Wright and her family also had to struggle with the death of her older brother, who passed away that March just as the coronavirus pandemic erupted. (Wright says her brother wasn’t diagnosed with COVID-19, although she suspects he may have had it.) “It was very difficult,” Wright admits. “And so we're just getting through it. We're still challenged, but we're getting through it. We were very, very close. Some of what we do now is in memory of my brother. He worked with students with the Southfield public school system, in particular, with the disabled student body. And so my family and I help to make students’ Christmas bright. We support them during Christmas by making sure that they have a full and happy Christmas.” Her work with students also reaches back to the WSU campus. For example, Wright serves as a judge for Wayne State’s Moot Court Competition. In private practice, Wright also hired and mentored young attorneys often giving them their first experience of practicing law. Whether she’s helping to diversify the faculty ranks at Wayne State or supporting students and new attorneys in metro Detroit, Wright takes heart in the fact that she’s helping others access dreams, not unlike the uncle who guided and inspired her. Doing this at her alma mater, says Wright, makes the job all the sweeter. “I’m the glad the Michigan Chronicle recognized the important work we’re doing, and I see us as continuing to support Wayne State’s efforts to tear down the barriers that impact minorities,” she says. “And I'm really happy to be doing it in a university that I care about, where I graduated with a degree in undergrad and law school. It means a lot to me.”  
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Wayne State Office of Women’s Health and Wayne Health Launch Well-Woman Wednesdays

The Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University, in partnership with the Wayne Health Mobile Unit program, will introduce Well-Woman Wednesdays, bringing free mobile health screenings and health education to the community at a variety of locations beginning July 14. The first Well-Woman Wednesday will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. at the headquarters of Alternatives for Girls. The project seeks to educate and empower women to achieve better health by providing them with screening, resources and connections to health care providers on their journey to improved wellness. “With Well-Woman Wednesdays, the Wayne State University Office of Women’s Health aims to expand health care to vulnerable communities impacted most by health disparities and lack of access to health care, thus improving the health of women overall,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president and founder of the Office of Women’s Health and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wayne State University. “The development of a women-focused mobile health unit aiming to improve health literacy and provide reliable methods and resources for the establishment and pursuit of care will improve accessibility of health care to women and eventually narrow the gap in health disparities.” The Wayne Health Mobile Unit program began in April 2020, bringing COVID-19 testing, and later vaccinations, to tens of thousands of people across Michigan. “This latest project is an extension of our initial testing and vaccination efforts,” said Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., a WSU professor of Emergency Medicine and chief innovation officer for Wayne Health. “It makes perfect sense to expand the array of health care and health care education services that our mobile units can provide for communities, assisting people in the comfort of their own surroundings.”
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Transgender, non-binary search for selves, rights

Blake Bonkowski grew up in Royal Oak uncomfortable in his own skin, not knowing who he was, bullied as an outsider throughout school because other kids thought he was a lesbian. “I got the idea – you're weird, you don't belong,” Bonkowski said, who was born female. “People had been calling me a lesbian my whole life, but I knew that didn't fit. I never questioned gender. It was something I was never aware of. Until I graduated high school, I didn't know that trans people existed – I knew that some trans women existed, but not trans men, and I didn't know that non-binary was real. I knew that calling myself a gay woman didn't fit, so I repressed everything until the end of high school, and then I met a girl I couldn't deny I had a crush on ”Bonkowski said he never spoke to his parents about his sexuality, gender dysmorphia or even the harassment and bullying he experienced. They just weren't the kind of family that talked about things, he said. Roland Sintos Coloma, a professor in the Wayne State University College of Education, noted that being older is not at all unusual. “Because of cultural, generational pressures to conform and be a certain way, as well as there weren't as many models. Trans folks were seen as freaks, as people on the margins of society. Trans folks, they've been seen, especially in non-Western cultures, they've been revered as spiritual,” such as the “two-spirits” of indigenous cultures, the hijras in India, South American culture and their widespread presence in ancient Greek mythology. 
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Women in the Workplace: Employers' role in avoiding a 'she-cession'

Bertie Greer, associate dean at Wayne State's Mike Ilitch School of Business, said companies have a lot to lose, or to gain, based on the tone they are set as we return to work. “Right up until we had the pandemic, conversations about flexibility at work or remote work were still a no-no. This pandemic really, has squashed that argument," she said. Greer, who also knows what it's like to be a working mother herself, said the pandemic has shown us workplace flexibility can no longer be a perk, but is a necessity in some cases. COVID, she said, taught us that it's possible to accommodate that. “It becomes second place to see a child walk in the back of a video conference. It has become second place to hear interruptions," Greer said. Data shows that inflexible work cultures have contributed to some women having to choose between caring for a loved one or advancing in their career or keeping a job. “There is this issue of not necessarily gender, but gender plus," Greer said, the idea that employers are not concerned with gender, but rather what traditionally comes with it; kids, household duties, care-taking, etc. “We’re going to have to work with our employees," said Greer. "Now we know we have more tools to use. Invite these tools into the workplace and figure out how to use them to retain your best and brightest.”
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What's fueling the massive spike in home and rent prices across metro Detroit?

Home prices are hitting record highs, and rent is also on the rise, making it difficult for some people to find and keep a place to live. According to Zillow, the average home value in Michigan is more than $205,000, up 13% from April 2020. Rent Cafe reports the average rent in the city of Detroit is up to more than $1,100 a month, a 4% increase from last year. This is a problem that can cause even more damage down the road, as the CDC said it's a basic necessity for families to find safe and affordable housing. "You really just need state and federal government to create tools that make it easier for developers to build affordable housing and for residents to qualify and to live in affordable housing," Matthew Roling, an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University said. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Detroit suffers from a deficit of about 100,000 housing units for low-income residents. The U.S. has a shortage of 7 million units of affordable housing. Roling said the term affordable housing typically refers to government-subsidized housing for low-income residents. "But these days the housing market, the 'for sale' residential market has exploded in value so much in the last year and a half, the affordable housing conversation in a lot of markets could also reasonably be construed to include that," he said.
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3 ways schools can improve STEM learning for Black students

James Holly Jr., assistant professor of urban STEM education, wrote an article for The Conversation on improving STEM learning for Black students. “Black people make up just 9% of the STEM workforce in the U.S. As a scholar who studies how STEM educators can more effectively reach Black students, I want to help all people develop an understanding of how anti-Black racism is a significant barrier for Black students learning STEM. Many scholars have argued that our current ways of teaching STEM are bad for everyone because only the experiences and contributions of white people are discussed, but the negative effects are greater for Black people. Teachers frequently question the intellectual ability of Black students and prevent them from using their cultural worldviews, spirituality and language in the STEM learning setting. Still, Black people continue to boost STEM knowledge across the world. It is time to generate new teaching practices in STEM that affirm Black students in a way that connects with their lives.”
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Rep. Tlaib on family in Palestine: “They just want to live”

Howard Lupovitch is an associate professor of history at Wayne State University and director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies. He says Israelis were trying to form a coalition government before the current conflict. ”We need to differentiate between the current Israeli government’s policies and what most Israelis actually think and feel.” He says he believes the state of Israel is necessary, but says it also created this conflict. ”Looking at both sides is very important … Zionism and the state of Israel solved a European problem and created an Asian or a Middle East problem … it was created to be not only a Jewish state but also a democratic state … both of those things are necessary.” Lupovitch says Hamas does not represent all Palestinians, and the same goes for the current Israeli leadership and citizens of Israel. ”If we could remove the Israeli right-wing extremists from this equation, the conflict could resolve itself very easily.” Saeed Khan is a lecturer of near east and Asian studies at Wayne State University. He says Palestinians are disenfranchised in multiple ways under Israeli occupation. ”Part of the way to understand what’s happening currently … is that Israel is moving farther and farther to the right.” He says with extremism from Hamas and the state of Israel, it’s becoming more difficult to resolve the conflict. ”We are finding that the space for some kind of return to negotiation is looking precarious because the [political] center is in jeopardy of no longer holding,” Khan says.
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COVID is fading, but racial gap in deaths is back with force in Michigan

African Americans again are dying at a disproportionate rate from COVID-19 in Michigan, as the gap widens between Black and white residents who have been vaccinated. In the past four weeks, African-American residents have comprised 19 percent — 295 of 1,560 deaths — of all COVID-19 deaths, despite making up 13.8 percent of the state population. The uptick comes as demand for the vaccines decreases. Statewide, some 27 percent of African Americans have at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 40 percent for white residents, according to state data. And Detroit, where 78 percent of residents are African American, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state: About 33 percent among adults compared to 55 percent statewide. Experts say the return of the death disparities underscores that the vaccine saves lives. Detroit has gone to senior housing apartments and run clinics at churches and neighborhood centers in an attempt to get as many people as possible vaccinated. “If you make it easy for people they’re more likely to do what is needed to keep them healthy,” said Phillip Levy, an emergency room physician who heads the Population Health Outcomes and Information Exchange (Phoenix) program at Wayne State University. As a physician at Detroit Receiving Hospital, Levy said he saw the rising number of COVID-19 cases pour into the emergency room in recent months. “It’s very worrisome,” said Levy, who is also chief innovation officer for Wayne Health. And he’s aware of the low vaccination rate in Detroit. “That’s really scary. We’ve got to continue to press and press hard.” To help, Levy’s group has been taking its mobile health unit across the region, to neighborhoods in Detroit, Eastpointe and Pontiac and elsewhere to bring basic care as well as vaccines to areas where “social vulnerability” — higher poverty, more seniors, less health care access — is highest. He lauded efforts at local churches to bring the vaccines closer to where people live, to have it offered in settings where people may be more comfortable.
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Detroit's infant mortality rate made a historic drop. Here's why

Detroit's infant mortality rate — once highest in the nation, exceeding many Third World countries — achieved a historic drop in 2019, helping Michigan achieve its lowest infant mortality rate in more than 100 years, according to state health officials. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan noted programs, such as Make Your Date, a collaboration between the city and Wayne State University, and prenatal programs run by Henry Ford Health Center and Ascension St. John Hospital as well as community organizations such as the Black Mothers Breast Feeding Association. Infant mortality is considered the death of an infant before reaching the age of 1. Causes of infant mortality included birth defects, preterm or premature birth, maternal pregnancy complications, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and injuries like suffocation. The greatest cause of infant mortality is premature birth, said Dr. Sonia Hassan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine who co-founded Wayne State University's Make Your Date program with Duggan in 2014. "It's amazing and great news," said Hassan of Detroit's reduction in infant mortality. "The reduction was for 2018 to 2019, but for years before that, there was a real big focus in the city by many groups on infant mortality — and it really made a difference. "Our program had high volume enrollment and others did too during that time. We were able to partner with the city on the transportation piece. So we were able to get a lot of people to services that they needed." Make Your Date, Henry Ford Health System, Ascension Health, the March of Dimes and numerous other partners focused on moving the needle, she said. "All of those people collectively as a group really were focused on infant mortality," she said. 
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For thousands of Michigan students, the barriers to getting to school are steep

Of the 50,000 students who attend Detroit Public Schools, more than 29,000 counted as chronically absent — missing 10% or more days in a school year — in the 2019-2020 school year. Statewide, nearly 300,000 students counted as chronically absent that year, according to state data. A new report from Wayne State University's College of Education finds the reasons for chronic absences for Detroit students are complicated. The report illustrates the lengths parents often have to go to get their child to school, in the face of unreliable transportation options and precarious financial circumstances. "We have the highest chronic absence in the country of any large city by a lot," Sarah Lenhoff, a Wayne State researcher and professor, said. The findings from the study mirror what other education leaders around the state have anecdotally noticed about chronically absent students. A lack of transportation plays a role in student absences, Lenhoff said, but just blaming absences on transportation leaves out more nuanced factors. Systemic problems like unemployment, financial insecurity and crime all contribute to a school district's chronic absenteeism rate. In interviews with families for the Wayne State report, researchers found those systemic, societal issues collided with a family's circumstances.  "It was rarely as simple as, 'I just have no way of getting my child physically to school,' " she said. "Most families are not going to enroll in a school that they physically can never get to."  
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Can cities plan for equity? These southeast Michigan communities are leading the way

Municipal master plans set the tone for how communities handle many important issues like land use, transportation, housing, and recreation. But some municipal planners are just beginning to figure out how to use the city master plan work to set meaningful goals for advancing social equity in their communities. That's according to "Are We Planning for Equity?" a study published in November in the Journal of the American Planning Association by Wayne State University researchers Carolyn Loh and Rose Kim. Loh and Kim developed a plan equity evaluation tool and used it to analyze 48 comprehensive plans from communities across Michigan, measuring the degree to which they incorporated practices and recommendations to advance equity. Loh says a master plan can incorporate equity into its goals in many different ways. Housing goals can stipulate a wide range of housing sizes, price points, and types that appeal to people of diverse income levels. Transportation goals can emphasize the importance of public transit, particularly adjacent to new housing developments, for those who can't afford a car. Plans can establish goals for climate resiliency, taking steps to ensure that marginalized residents aren't disproportionately exposed to flooding or heat vulnerability. Economic development goals can seek to ensure that development benefits lower-income neighborhoods instead of just favoring high-rent downtowns. "Are you recommending accessible housing for a variety of folks, that's in a safe place, that's connected to a transportation system that's going to let them access the things they need?" Loh says. "If you had it in one sentence ... that's what you're looking for."  
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City of Detroit program aims to employ returning citizens coming out of jail

The city of Detroit is cleaning up one alley at a time while giving a second chance to the people who are coming out of jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, "returning citizens" face unemployment at a rate of over 27% higher than the rest of the population. Delvin Wallace is a returning citizen, a free man since January 2020. He takes advantage of work opportunities like at the COVID-19 testing site at the former State Fairgrounds through "Detroit At Work." The program then got him connected to the city's alley cleanup project in August. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, used to run a re-entry program in the city for women. She said going from a regimented life behind bars to a free society full of choices can be overwhelming. "Having employment that provides you with a regular schedule, that provides you with socialization to others who are doing, kind of, the work of life is really a helpful support benefit. But the more meaningful the employment is and the higher the wages, the most likely people aren't going to go back into criminal behavior," Kubiak said.

Detroit says mostly Black residents are getting vaccinated – probably

As advocates question the number of coronavirus vaccines going to Black and Brown recipients across the country, officials from the City of Detroit say even though the data is incomplete, they are sure that vaccines are predominantly being administered to Black Detroiters. City officials reported Tuesday that 70 percent of its vaccine recipients have voluntarily shared racial demographic data. However, over 26,000 vaccine recipients, or about 30 percent of all vaccine recipients by Tuesday, chose not to share their race, leaving a gap of unknowns of who is receiving the coronavirus vaccine in Detroit. Dr. Herbert Smitherman, vice dean of diversity and community affairs at Wayne State University and president and CEO of Health Centers Detroit Foundation, said it’s important to recognize the cases and death rates out of Detroit compared to the rest of the state when determining how to distribute vaccines. He cited the Dying Before Their Time report and the “longitudinal, historic challenges that African Americans and older African Americans have experienced in the United States.”
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‘What’s new is the attention:’ Black women celebrated as ‘Backbone Of Democracy’ after 2020 election

During and after the 2020 election Black women were heralded as the, “backbone of democracy” by many Democrats. Their organizing efforts and the support they galvanized were crucial to President Joe Biden’s victory and Democrats regaining power in the U.S. Senate. Their efforts in Georgia gained national attention, but Black women also played an essential role leading up to and following Michigan’s 2020 election. Early on, the Biden Harris campaign zeroed in on the city of Detroit. Many believed President Trump’s narrowest nationwide margin of victory in 2016, was partially attributable to a depressed turnout in Wayne County—the state’s most populous and bluest county. Ronald Brown is an  Associate Professor of political science at Wayne State University and a member of Citizen Detroit, a voter education group based in Detroit. He says the role of Black women in Detroit politics blooms out of places like Black churches and other centers of religious and civiclife where women often outnumber men.  “They are the foundation in terms of mobilizing the vote and they’re the ones also…who turn out the meetings that we attend. This is a not random sample, but the meeting that I attend, it’s the same thing is like 66% women, 44% men,” said Brown. 
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How the story of Remus Robinson relates to current racial disparities in healthcare

Dr. Herbert Smitherman, general internist at the Detroit Medical Center and vice dean of Diversity and Community Affairs at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been a practicing physician in Detroit for 33 years. Smitherman said he has met with several Black patients who don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine or the health care system itself. He believes that can change if there are more Black doctors. “The race of the provider and having people that look like you, understand you, understand your concerns and your culture are very important to helping you receive needed care,” Smitherman said. A 2018 study done in Oakland, California, found that increasing the number of Black doctors could reduce the Black-white male gap in cardiovascular mortality by 19 percent. A 2016 study found that Black men and women in the U.S. have a life expectancy that was, respectively, 4.4 and 2.8 years shorter than white men and women. But Smitherman cautions that efforts to increase the number of Black doctors cannot be the only solution. “The mistrust was not created by Black physicians. It was structural racism and systemic racism within a health care system that created that mistrust, not Black physicians, but by non-Black physicians,” he said. Smitherman pointed out that issues such as where the vaccine is distributed, the times of day it’s offered, and the method for scheduling a vaccine appointment are all potential complications for the average Detroiter. He said figuring out solutions is all about having a diverse group of decision-makers at the table. “If you aren't having people of color represented in your real strategy setting and planning for vaccine distribution, we're not going to get where we need to get,” he said.
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Ethnic media alliance pushes stories of success, provides community leadership

Michigan is home to a variety of ethnic media outlets: the Jewish News, the Latino Press, the Michigan Chronicle among them. Hayg Oshagan, a professor at Wayne State University, looked at the outlets and had a vision: What would happen if they were brought together? So, in 2005, he met with editors from the News, Press and Chronicle -- and the Korean Weekly and the Arab American News. These five papers have a combined circulation of more than 130,000, and a readership reach above 400,000. And while circulation declines have bedeviled the mainstream newspaper world -- a 30 percent drop nationally between 1990 and 2010 -- some of the these properties (Arab American News, Latino Press) are showing surprising resilience in their subscriber ranks. Together, they are now New Michigan Media. Oshagan's goal was to make issues and concerns of ethnic and minority communities more visible to the surrounding community -- to make minority communities more visible to one another and to promote their contributions to the region. “Minority interests have been largely ignored by mainstream media,” said Oshagan. "The collaboration aims to change the existing narrative by bringing to light issues as a group -- and making people see the economic, social, moral argument of immigration to this nation and region.”

How to get accepted into college with a low GPA

For students who struggle academically in high school, the college application process can be especially stressful. A low GPA can prevent teens from getting accepted into top universities — like the Ivy League schools — and other selective colleges, but there are still options. Admissions experts say high schoolers can explain an academic dip in their college applications and spend the rest of their senior year making their applications more appealing. Another piece of advice: Students should discover the root cause of those academic shortcomings. Students can discuss poor grades in a college application essay, also called a personal statement, or in the additional information field on the Common Application. “Anything that the student can provide to explain that (GPA) would be helpful,” says Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for student success at Wayne State University. “They should be transparent, because (GPA) is already visible to admissions officers through their transcripts. Colleges already know, so they’re looking to understand the situation and circumstances better.” She adds that admissions officials understand that “every learner is on a journey. For those eyeing a four-year college, an alternative admissions program may be the way in. If a student’s GPA is below the school’s standards, he or she may still be admitted under certain conditions. As part of the program, students receive additional academic support in their first year of college and beyond, depending on the curriculum. One such example is Academic Pathways to Excellence at Wayne State, which focuses on sharpening students’ academic skills as they enter college. “It provides them a transition period between high school and college to really understand how college learning is different from high school learning, to get extended support or even some remediation of writing skills or mathematics skills or other barriers like that,” Brockmeyer says.