Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Advancing the O’Neill School’s mission to lead for the greater good

At the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, we actively strive to cultivate diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our faculty, staff, students, and alumni engage in scholarship, teaching, and professional practice to enhance democracy, increase trust in public institutions, address issues of systematic inequality, secure public health and safety, and improve the well-being of individuals, families, communities, and the environment.

As the premier school of public and environmental affairs in the world, the O’Neill School recognizes that identifying solutions to complex and intersectional issues requires the inclusion of diverse voices. We aim to respect and elevate the voices of all community members, whose diverse perspectives span the dimensions of race and ethnicity, national origin, culture, and language; gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status; religion and political perspective; age; disability status; veteran status; and socioeconomic status. The O’Neill School values the engagement of all faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members in these endeavors.

Creating change with the O’Neill School by opening doors and opening minds.

Advocating to elevate voices, challenge perspectives, and transform the culture of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Director Brian Richardson Jr. delivers a talk at an independently organized TEDx event.

Description of the video:

[Music]
00:18
hi mom as human beings we are perception
00:25
creators we create and influence the way
00:27
they were perceived by others based on
00:29
several things like how we act how we
00:31
talk and even how we carry ourselves we
00:35
also can create the perceptions for
00:37
other people or other groups of people
00:38
that enough itself shows the power of
00:41
language we all possess the power to
00:43
build or destroy with our words take for
00:47
instance a simple question like what do
00:50
you want to be when you grow up it's not
00:52
that simple for every child seeing how
00:54
some children's futures are predicted
00:56
for them based on their identities this
01:00
summer my 15 year old nephew he spent
01:03
among us a nice picture by the way he
01:06
spent a month with me and my family and
01:08
out of excitement I told him that I'd be
01:11
giving a TEDx hug he was excited
01:14
he said well uncle what will you be
01:16
talking about I told him growth so
01:20
through our conversation I asked him
01:21
well what is growth to you and this was
01:24
his response the depiction of
01:27
development is growth but as a young
01:30
black man it isn't that straightforward
01:32
growth is difficult in a society where
01:34
black people's mere omnipresence is
01:36
entertainment for those who want to keep
01:38
us inferior they want to restrain us
01:41
from living a prosperous life and
01:44
restrict us to being known as just
01:47
ghetto but is that all that we are uncle
01:52
is that all that I will be I want you to
01:58
ponder for a moment on his words because
02:00
some of you may think same way that I
02:02
did your what shape that how did that
02:05
hug that formulate you see we live in a
02:10
society that perpetuate stereotypes and
02:12
other nests
02:13
we're statistics are used to inform
02:16
policies and enact laws but the
02:19
statistics only tells a small part of
02:20
any story but how do we become agents of
02:25
change to start to alter those
02:27
narratives how can we create and inspire
02:30
and give hope in others so they can see
02:32
past their current circumstances and
02:34
continue to dream I believe that we all
02:39
possess the ability to create change and
02:41
at that change starts with our words but
02:46
then must be followed by our actions so
02:50
in an effort to create change and to
02:53
also the narrative around black and
02:54
brown young men in 2014 while living in
02:57
Ohio I saw a need in my community and
03:00
volunteered my time by creating a
03:02
mentoring Academy they focused on
03:04
identity development and leadership
03:06
training for college-age men of color
03:07
the program was called minority men
03:10
striving to succeed or m2s to
03:12
foreshorten over the course of nine
03:15
weeks once a week for two hours we focus
03:18
on concepts such as manhood and
03:20
masculinities identity development time
03:23
management financial literacy how to
03:26
write your resume and build your cover
03:28
letter we even hosted an etiquette
03:31
dinner but at the core of all of that we
03:34
focused on academic preparation
03:37
this was the university's first minority
03:40
male initiative and as a result we saw
03:42
increase in retention and increase in
03:44
GPA and an increase in the sense of
03:46
belonging for these young men of color
03:50
for some the m2 s2 program was an outlet
03:54
in a safe space where they can escape
03:56
the pressures of the world and focus on
03:59
becoming the person that they wanted to
04:00
be it would be a place where they
04:03
frequently would be told that they
04:05
matter and that they belong and for some
04:09
it was the first time where they felt
04:11
like somebody cared about them where
04:14
they could laugh but they also could cry
04:20
through a community partnership had an
04:23
opportunity to take a group of my m2s
04:25
two participants to a local elementary
04:26
school to read and interact with male
04:28
students while we were there one of my
04:31
participants came to me with tears in
04:33
his eyes out of excitement he said Brian
04:36
thank you so much for this experience
04:38
now I had no idea why he was crying or
04:41
why he was thanking me but I knew that
04:44
something powerful happened in that
04:45
moment he said that while he was there
04:48
and he was reading with the young man he
04:51
saw himself staring back at him and he
04:55
realized that him being in college was
04:57
bigger than him but his success in
05:00
college was service proof that that
05:01
young boy a ten-year-old child could
05:04
make it to our words have power and they
05:14
can create change but our actions must
05:16
reflect our words so in 2016 I moved to
05:21
Bloomington to work at Indiana
05:22
University School of Public Health I
05:24
knew that I wanted to continue to be
05:26
involved in my new community but I
05:28
didn't know how or if I would even have
05:30
the time to be able to commit but seeing
05:33
the impact that a program like him to us
05:35
we had on my institution as well as my
05:37
community I knew that I wanted to
05:39
continue to give back and work with
05:41
young men to help them grow and develop
05:42
as someone who grew up in a
05:45
single-parent household without a father
05:47
figure I know full on the importance of
05:50
having a strong community to reinforce
05:53
those positive things that are being
05:54
taught at home as well as in the schools
05:58
so to create that change had the
06:01
privilege to take the m2s to program
06:04
bring it to Bloomington and convert it
06:07
to fit the needs for fourth through
06:08
sixth grade young boys through the
06:13
approval of parents and school
06:15
administrators the Crimson Leadership
06:17
Academy was created or KLA for short for
06:22
one week one hour
06:25
I met with 15 young boys over the course
06:28
of ten weeks who were hand selected by
06:30
school administrators and we focus on
06:32
things like improving their
06:33
communication skills
06:34
developing a positive outlook in
06:37
attitude on life as well as ultimately
06:40
creating a safe space where these young
06:42
boys could grow develop while still
06:45
being a kid now it's important to me
06:50
that these young boys see value and what
06:52
they're doing and that they want to be
06:54
there and as a built-in components of
06:57
the Academy we practice we practice
06:59
positive affirmations so each week acts
07:03
every young boy comes to the front and
07:05
introduced themselves as so hello my
07:11
name is Brian Richardson jr. I'm 10
07:13
years old I'm in the fourth grade I am a
07:17
leader and I will be successful now some
07:21
of you may be wondering you got all them
07:23
kids to come up and do that yes I did
07:25
okay but as you can imagine some were
07:34
very hesitant but around three and week
07:38
four a switch is flipped to see those
07:42
same young boys with hesitant at first
07:43
now excited with the opportunity to
07:46
share who they are and that they are
07:48
leaders and they will be successful
07:50
that's a true joy of mine to see those
07:53
same young boys raise the hands Oh mr.
07:56
Richardson I want to go first I want to
07:57
go first that's pride this process it's
08:07
truly inspiring and what I realize is
08:09
when you say something over and over
08:12
again enough times you'll start to
08:13
believe it or you'll fake it but in this
08:17
case they started to believe it and the
08:21
people around them started to observe a
08:23
difference in their behaviors such as
08:25
their parents and their teachers from
08:27
the way that they would act how they
08:28
were talking even their approach to
08:29
class as a way to give back as a token
08:36
of my appreciation for them completing
08:38
the process we hold a Thai ceremony
08:42
where I have each day some nice times
08:46
where I have each young
08:48
come up to the front pick out their own
08:50
individual tire teach them how to tie
08:53
that tie and then they get to keep it at
08:55
the end
08:56
it's a powerful moment in that room to
08:59
see those little faces light up with the
09:01
opportunities I'm learning this new
09:02
skill to see their confidence raised
09:05
just by putting on that tie that's
09:08
priceless
09:11
you see every child presents their own
09:15
backstory and all of their needs are
09:18
different I'd be doing them a disservice
09:20
if I assumed that because they were the
09:23
same race or the same gender from the
09:25
same neighborhood or because they were
09:26
in the same grade that all of their
09:28
needs would be the same wrong it is
09:32
critical to find the right approach when
09:35
meeting with each individual person
09:37
finding out what's gonna push them to
09:39
help them be successful in life we all
09:44
have to get to that point where we're
09:45
meeting the individual where they are
09:47
and we're not assuming because you look
09:49
a certain way
09:50
here are your specific needs you never
09:54
know what a person is dealing with in
09:55
their life and how impactful your words
09:58
and your actions can be on the outlook
10:00
of their life moving forward to inspire
10:03
them and give them hope so I challenged
10:06
us all in those moments where we find
10:08
ourselves making those snap perceptions
10:09
about the future of a person or what
10:11
they can bring to the table that we
10:13
pause and we think about our words
10:16
because they can build or they can
10:19
destroy which will yours do thank you
10:29
you

Meet the O’Neill School Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Brian Richardson Jr.
Director, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

br36@indiana.edu
(812) 855-5030

Megan Starnes
Director of Strategic Initiatives

merflynn@indiana.edu
(812) 855-8291

Make an appointment

From left: DEI Director Brian Richardson Jr., Levon Williams, Rebekah Amaya, Joshua Gilstein, Phillisha Wathen, Michael Cervantes, and Megan Starnes.