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College of Pharmacy recognized as leader in diversity, inclusion

The college was selected to receive the 2021 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion

For the first time, the Texas A&M University Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy has been selected to receive the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

The Texas A&M College of Pharmacy is one of only three pharmacy colleges in the nation to be selected to receive this award in 2021 and joins the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences as the only two colleges at Texas A&M to earn this distinction. The HEED award is presented annually to health colleges and universities across the country that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“The College of Pharmacy embraces and values diversity and is committed to achieving a thriving, inclusive community. We are steadfast in following in the vision of our namesake, District 35 State Representative Irma Lerma Rangel, who was dedicated to improving health care access to our underserved communities here in South Texas,” said Indra Reddy, PhD, founding dean of the College of Pharmacy. “We are thankful for leaders like Irma Rangel, and the leaders of today like Texas A&M University System Chancellor Sharp, who continue to prioritize efforts that lead to a more inclusive culture in our university and beyond. We strive to lead by example.”

Currently, 443 students are enrolled in the College of Pharmacy, 54 percent of whom are underrepresented minorities (URM). Per the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the college has one of the most diverse student populations amongst all pharmacy schools in the nation. It is committed to providing every student with the opportunity to succeed and has a retention rate of 93 percent in recent years (2017-2020) compared to an 88 percent national retention rate.

As a recipient of the annual Health Professions HEED Award, the College of Pharmacy will be featured in the December 2021 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, along with 50 other recipients.

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine selected the College of Pharmacy for its multitude of resources, events, training and varied efforts, including:

  • Matriculation agreements which have resulted in an increase in admissions applications and the matriculation of students from each school. The College of Pharmacy has established memoranda of agreement (MOA) with Texas A&M International University-Laredo, South Texas College-Edinburg, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and Texas A&M University in College Station (three of the four are designated Hispanic serving institutions). These agreements are in line with the college’s mission to increase access to health care in South Texas and medically under-served areas. Forty-nine percent of the Class of 2024 are from these schools.
  • Holistic admissions processes to assess prospective students, which includes both traditional and non-traditional measures. The College of Pharmacy emphasizes the importance of a broad diversity of perspectives when admitting students. Therefore, it has implemented Multiple Mini-Interviews (MMI) which are designed to assess non-cognitive skills of a candidate that correlate with success and have been shown to reduce bias in assessing candidates.
  • The Aggie Student Pharmacists Initiative for Recruitment|Retention and Education (ASPIR2E) program includes two of its four tracks explicitly geared towards recruiting unrepresented minority (URM) students and first-generation students.
  • Well-being committee spearheads and coordinates college well-being and inclusivity efforts. It conducts a survey of student, staff and faculty to assess perceptions of well-being culture, cultural sensitivity, diversity and inclusivity at the college and addresses issues identified. The committee also provides diversity and inclusion training to students, faculty and staff; increases visibility of available resources that promote and cultivate a college-wide climate of well-being; and assesses the feasibility of offering well-being instruction/training in a standalone elective course and/or embedded longitudinally into targeted courses in a progressive manner.
  • The Office of Student Success, led by the director of Student Success, implemented a Student Success Collaborative to improve the rapport with faculty advisors by centralizing interaction records. The program includes mentoring, tutoring, and academic coaching and advising. Similarly, the Student Success and Retention Committee was formed to address retention issues.
  • Strategic partnerships and community initiatives provide ample opportunities for students and faculty to serve and educate the community beyond the college’s campuses. Through interprofessional service-learning events, co-curricular activities and other outreach programs, the college engages diverse populations throughout Texas in health literacy and advocacy.
  • The Diversity Leadership Council is charged to monitor, assess and provide annual reports on accountability, climate and equity with regard to diversity and inclusion, and make recommendations to enhance the College of Pharmacy’s diversity.
  • A diversity donation grant awarded by Walgreens to College of Pharmacy in the amount of $12,000 for the 2020-2021 academic year aids efforts to increase diversity among student pharmacists. The award is dispersed to support the Cultural Diversity Committee diversity and inclusion activities, scholarships and pipeline initiative development. The college can apply for this grant annually and has received it for multiple years.
  • Awards have been awarded to the college from Texas A&M University Offices for Diversity and the Provost in the amount of $25,000 in one-time, non-renewable funds for FY 2021. Since 2015, the college has been awarded a total of $111,500. Awards are based on the President’s Council on Climate and Diversity’s assessment of the progress the college has made and plans to make on accountability, campus climate and equity. These funds are used to advance the college’s diversity and inclusion goals.

“Our hope is that our actions speak louder than our words. We currently have a student population that is comprised of 54 percent underrepresented minorities, and 37 percent who identify as first-generation students,” Reddy said.

“The Health Professions HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees—and best practices for both—continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a Health Professions HEED Award recipient. Our standards are high, and we look for schools where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”

Diversity and inclusion are not the same things. Organizations can provide directives on diversity, but can’t mandate inclusion. Inclusion must be cultivated and nurtured. Diversity without inclusion is a missed opportunity, or even exclusion,” Reddy said. “We strive to create an environment that is inclusive and develops and inspires a diverse group of future leaders in pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences.”

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