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EDI Matters Newsletter E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

March 2016

Message from Vice Chancellor Hill

Research and scholarly activity! Vanderbilt University is one of the top research institutions in the world. Our numerous schools have scholars who are making significant contributions daily.

We need to engage the brilliant minds of our faculty in research and scholarly activity in order to address issues that relate to equity, diversity and inclusion. George HillWhat research is being done nationally to determine effective strategies to develop an inclusive organization? How does one measure successful approaches to an inclusive institution?

What have been productive methods for bringing individuals with different ideas together? What are organizational entities that reflect inclusiveness and equitable opportunities and how was this measured? What does evidence-based research show us? Is research in these areas valued?

In this issue, we highlight some of the many Vanderbilt scholars whose research and scholarly activity are advancing our understanding of diversity on multiple levels and support our goals of becoming a more inclusive institution and a more equitable nation and world.

George C. Hill, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer

College of Arts and Science

efren-perezEfrén Pérez, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science: Professor Pérez is co-director of the Research on Individuals, Politics and Society (RIPS) experimental lab. His research into political psychology and public opinion places emphasis on racial and ethnic politics. Pérez’s work includes publications on the relationship between language and survey response, such as “Xenophobic Rhetoric and Its Political Effects on Immigrants and Their Co-Ethnics,” forthcoming from the American Journal of Political Science. He also is preparing new projects on group identity, identity threat and political response. Read more >

Professor Keivan Stassun

Keivan Stassun, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Astronomy: Beyond his important contributions to the field of astrophysics, Professor Stassun has drawn on his own diverse background by actively contributing to diversity initiatives throughout his academic career. His accomplishments in this area include co-directing the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program. Professor Stassun’s 2014 Nature article, co-written with Casey Miller, reveals biases against women and minorities related to GRE scores, which the authors believe explain the ongoing lack of diversity in STEM graduate programs. Professor Stassun is co-chair of the Chancellor’s Diversity, Inclusion and Community Committee and a member of Vice Chancellor Hill’s Advisory Council. Read more >

Blair School of Music

Gregory-Barz.jpgGregory F. Barz, Ph.D., Professor of Musicology (Ethnomusicology) and Associate Professor of Religion: Professor Barz’s current research focuses on the use of socially conscious popular music, dance and drama as medical intervention among women’s village groups in rural Uganda to promote, communicate HIV/AIDS awareness. Professor Barz produced a recording with Smithsonian Folkways entitled Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing, and HIV/AIDS in Uganda that was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the “Best Traditional World Music” category. His publications include Singing for Life: Music and HIV/AIDS in Uganda (2006) and Performing Religion: Negotiating Past and Present in Kwaya Music of Tanzania (2003). He has conducted field research in the East African countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Read more >

Divinity School

Fernando-segovia.jpgFernando Segovia, Ph.D., Oberlin Graduate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity: Professor Segovia joined the Divinity faculty in 1984. As a theologian, he focuses on non-Western Christian theologies, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean, and on minority Christian theologies in the West, especially those of U.S. Hispanic Americans. Segovia is the author of Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins (2000) and co-editor, with R. S. Sugirtharajah, of A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings (2009). Read more >

The Graduate School

Professor Jedidah IslerJedidah Isler, Ph.D., National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow: In December 2015, The New York Times published “The ‘Benefits’ of Black Physics Students ,” Professor Isler’s response to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s controversial question: “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” Isler received a master’s degree in physics as part of the initial cohort in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program. Isler became the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale. She is presently an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt and participates in the Future Faculty Leaders program at Harvard University’s Center for Astrophysics. Throughout her career, she has advocated for the inclusion and empowerment of students from underrepresented backgrounds in the sciences. Read more >

Law School


Joni Hersch, Ph.D., Professor of Law and Economics, and Jennifer Bennett Shinall, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Law: Professors Hersch and Shinall recently co-authored “Fifty Years Later: The Legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 .” The paper assesses the legacy of the Civil Rights Act over the past fifty years: its history and scope, its impact on wages and employment, and the segregation outcomes of the Act’s five protected classes.

Jennifer Bennett Shinall for Law School faculty guide and web use. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Professor Hersch works in the areas of employment discrimination and empirical law and economics. Her research demonstrates that women graduates of elite institutions have lower labor market activity than their counterparts who are graduates of non-elite institutions and the consequences of this labor market disparity for societal equity. Her current work examines how the legal system can address the effects of obesity on the labor market and the employment effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.
Read more about Hersch >
Read more about Shinall >

Owen Graduate School of Management


Jessica Kennedy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management: Women in business negotiations face more deceit than men, often putting them at a disadvantage during negotiations, Professor Kennedy has found. She researches power and status hierarchies and is interested in how groups allocate power and status to individuals, and how power and status affect individuals’ decisions. Her research has found that overconfidence biases the allocation of status in groups. Kennedy also examines ethics in organizations. In this area, her research has found that women’s negative reactions to ethical compromises lower their interest in business careers, and stereotypes about women’s competence in negotiations lead women to be targets of deception. Read more >

Peabody College

Christopher-LemonsChristopher Lemons, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education: Professor Lemons received President Obama’s Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers on Feb. 18. His current projects are focused on enhancing reading and math interventions for individuals with Down syndrome and on assessing the behavioral phenotype of individuals with Down syndrome, examining the relationships between phenotypic characteristics and academic outcomes. He also conducts research related to data-based individualization as a method of intensifying reading interventions for children with severe and persistent learning difficulties. Read more >

ebony-mcgeeEbony McGee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Diversity and Urban Schooling: Professor McGee studies the role of racialized biases in STEM that influence high achieving, historically marginalized students’ graduate and career trajectories, particularly their interest in college faculty positions. She also examines the role of resiliency, wellness, and mental health issues for mathematically high-achieving African American high school and post-secondary students. Finally Professor McGee studies identity development in high-achieving STEM students of color. Read more >

School of Medicine

Dr. Michael DeBaun

Michael DeBaun, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine and Director of the Vanderbilt-Meharry Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease: Dr. DeBaun’s work on the roles of poverty, parenting style, violence and parental stress in relation to full-scale IQ in children with sickle cell disease contributes to the growing field of health disparities research. His research is as sensitive to the social determinants of disease and outcomes as it is to the biological determinants of disease. His work maintains that the two factors are intertwined in a dynamic interplay that has important implications for defining more effective preventive interventions that enhance the well-being of patients with SCD. Dr. DeBaun is working on the project Primary Prevention of Stroke in Children with SCD in Sub-Saharan Africa. Read more >

School of Engineering

Professor Clare McCabeClare McCabe, Ph.D., Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Director of Graduate Studies for Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering: In addition to her research into the use of molecular modeling and the thermodynamic and transport properties of complex fluids, nanomaterials and biological systems, Professor McCabe serves as chair of the School of Engineering’s Faculty Development and Diversity Committee. Under her leadership, the Committee proposed an “Emerging Scholars in Engineering” lecture series to showcase younger academics from underrepresented groups who are nearing completion of or who have completed a doctoral degree. The seminar series, which School of Engineering Dean Philippe Fauchet announced in February, represents an opportunity for these emerging scholars to learn more about the School of Engineering and Vanderbilt, as well as an opportunity for Vanderbilt faculty to learn more about the research and future career goals of these outstanding engineers. Read more >

School of Nursing

Dr. Rolanda Johnson

Rolanda Johnson, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing: Professor Johnson’s areas of expertise include health promotion and racial identity of African Americans, as well as genetics perceptions of African Americans. Her recent research considers the possibility that the conceptualization of health promotion for African Americans may be different from historically accepted definitions, creating dissonance when prescribing and implementing health care strategies. In 2005, Professor Johnson published “Health Promotion: A Theoretical Overview with an African American Perspective Comparison,” a qualitative study presenting a historical overview of health promotion and exploring disease prevention from an African American perspective. Her more recent work-in-progress — in collaboration with Professor Tom Cook — looks at the perceived pharmacy needs of a low-income community. Read more >

Jana Lauderdale, Ph.D., RN Vanderbilt School of Nursing Vanderbilt University Medical Center photo: Anne Rayner; VUJana Lauderdale, Ph.D., RN Vanderbilt School of Nursing Vanderbilt University Medical Center photo: Anne Rayner; VU

Jana Lauderdale, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Associate Professor of Nursing: Professor Lauderdale’s research has focused on health disparities in American Indian communities. She has led community-based, participatory research initiatives to develop culturally competent research into cancer screening and care in Indian country. Her research contributions have addressed American Indian cancer disparities, including identification of barriers to HPV vaccination, and development of culturally tailored, cancer-education programs. As a member of the Comanche Nation, Professor Lauderdale has strived to ensure that American Indian research projects are conducted in a culturally appropriate manner and that research processes and dissemination include community-level approaches, community-based expertise, and indigenous knowledge to identify tribal and community strengths, building tribal capacity and strengthening community-based interventions to improve American Indian health. Read more >

24-7 Resources

The following services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:


The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion seeks a graduate / professional student worker.

Future Events

MCAT posterMarch 17: All students are invited to expert presentations on the MCAT and medical school application process from 3 to 6 p.m. in Kissam C-210. Find more information here.

March 17-18: The Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health and Society invites you to The Politics of Health in the U.S. South, an interactive, interdisciplinary conference. Find more information here.

Vice Chancellor Hill listens to students, faculty, and staff.Vice Chancellor Hill invites all students, faculty and staff to listening sessions at the Blair School of Music on March 23, at the School of Nursing on April 11, at the Law School on April 14, and at the Divinity School on April 18. Voice your thoughts and concerns about equity, diversity and inclusion. Lunch will be provided.

Past Issues

January 2016

February 2016

EDI Matter  |  Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Vanderbilt University
401 Kirkland Hall
Nashville, TN 37240


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