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K-State Today

August 7, 2015



Clinical science department head completes national diversity training certification in veterinary medicine

By Joe Montgomery

It wasn't an intentional rush to be first, but Bonnie Rush did indeed become the first faculty member at Kansas State University to finish a diversity certification training program designed specifically for educators in veterinary medicine.

The Online Certificate Programs for Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine is offered by Purdue University through its Center of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine. Rush, head of the clinical sciences department in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said she first heard about the training program last year and signed up in October 2014.

"As department head, you interact with many different groups of people — faculty, staff, students and external constituents — every day," Rush said. "It's important to understand how a person in an underrepresented group may view each interaction differently.

Rush recalled working with individual veterinary students from underrepresented groups who have struggled to overcome and persevere through a wide range of barriers such as family and/or cultural expectations or different learning styles and pressures. Those experiences helped drive her motivation to pursue the diversity training program. She also appreciated the impact of this training program on the practice of veterinary medicine, such as how a veterinarian might provide special considerations for a physically-impaired client.

Participants complete a combination of distance learning modules, life experiences, seminar series and reflections to build their skill sets. Each must perform and document one to three hours of volunteer community service and submit written reflections about what was learned. Another requirement is to submit a capstone paper of one to two pages on how a participant will use information from the certificate program to strengthen diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine.

"You have one year to complete the program," Rush said. "I was surprised to learn that only three faculty members have completed the program to date. There are 66 faculty representing 27 of 30 U.S. veterinary colleges currently completing the program. There have also been two students out of 61 participants from six different colleges who have their completion certificates, so only five people total have finished it so far."

Rush found three things to be particularly valuable in the training.

"There was a module on stereotype threat and a module on microagressions, and I watched a series of videos produced by the Kansas State University College of Education that profiled students who are first-generation college students," Rush said. "Watching these videos gave me a much stronger appreciation for students who are first-generation college students, particularly veterinary students who are first-generation students, and understanding their challenges. That was an inspirational set of videos."

Rush explained that stereotype threat is a situational predicament in which people are, or feel themselves to be, at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about their social group. This situation creates additional anxiety that may negatively impact their performance.

"Stereotype threat was a perspective I had never heard before," Rush said. "In regard to microaggression, I think most people understand that underrepresented groups receive daily low-grade negative feedback that has a cumulative effect. The negative feedback may be intentional or unintentional, so it is important to be sensitive and aware of the daily subtle negative threats that are received by persons in underrepresented groups."

Rush said she will encourage faculty members in her department to take the training. She credits other Kansas State University administrators in being role models who helped promote diversity including Ronnie Elmore, associate dean for academic programs, admissions and diversity programs; Jim Coffman, Kansas State University provost emeritus and College of Veterinary Medicine dean emeritus; and Ralph Richardson, interim dean and CEO of K-State Olathe, who served the last 17 years as the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"I am delighted that Dr. Rush has completed the online Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine certification program offered by the School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University," Elmore said. "The amount of effort required to complete this program is significant. More importantly than earning this certificate is the commitment made by Dr. Rush to make her department and our college a comfortable place to work regardless of each individual's differences. We are very proud of Dr. Rush's leadership and accomplishments."