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Nancy Tkacs, the newly-appointed assistant dean for Diversity and Cultural Affairs for the School of Nursing, sat down with The Daily Pennsylvanian to discuss how her school will best implement the Faculty Diversity Action Plan.

Credit: Alexandra Fleischman , Alexandra Fleischman

Since the Faculty Diversity Action Plan was released by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price this summer, each school has been working to develop their individual plans by May 2012.

The School of Nursing’s Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Affairs, Nancy Tkacs, was recently appointed to advise the Nursing school on how to diversify its faculty. Tkacs sat down with The Daily Pennsylvanian to discuss her new role.

The DP: When did you take the position of Diversity Officer?

Nancy Tkacs: Sept. 1st, so I’m brand new. There’s so much to learn. I’m really excited about it. What I brought to the position: I’ve been a member of the University Council Committee of Diversity Inequity for the past several years and started last year as the Chair of that committee. I felt as if I had a good handle on how President Gutmann’s strategies had been developed.

The DP: How will the Diversity Action Plan be implemented in Nursing School?

NT: We were very early in implementing [a Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow position] … to attract someone who is a rising scholar. It could be a person from an underrepresented minority in Nursing.

We actually announced that position and filled it a year ago, but now [the Diversity Action Plan] will allow us to add a second diversity-related postdoctoral scholar.

The fact is that professional nursing is, by and large, a majority white, majority female profession … the University, over the years, has had many policies that help. The faculty opportunity fund that has helped the schools make significant hires [and] to make an offer that would be very appealing to someone who might otherwise get a better offer from another competitor institution… in the Ivy League. [This includes] joint spousal hires and flexible faculty hiring that ensures leave for childbirth and adoption.

The DP: What are the long-term goals of the School of Nursing’s Diversity Action Plan?

NT: I view my long-term goals as relating to areas of both faculty diversity and student diversity … and also to keep our tabs on whether or not we’re establishing a very welcoming and inclusive climate.

We had the most astonishingly good workshop last week on unconscious bias, which has been a huge issue that’s very pervasive in our society.

These kinds of workshops for faculty, staff, and students are critical for understanding our own biases. Our motto is “Care to change the world” and part of that is understanding differences. This is something that has always been a goal of the School of Nursing … One thing that we often hear is that students want to see faculty who look like them, and that’s always a long term goal.

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