In 1963, black students were admitted to segregated colleges and universities in South
Carolina for the first time since Reconstruction. One of the first black students
to graduate with a BSN from UofSC was Carrie Houser in 1971. At a South Carolina Nurses
Association Convention in 1999, Ms. Carrie Houser James spoke briefly of the difficulties
she experienced at the university like rejection, shunning, and stumbling blocks but then went on to say, "as tough as things were, they also got better."
Since 1999, many things have improved for minority groups, but there is still a large
divide that separates African Americans from equality. The College of Nursing is committed
to acknowledging these barriers and ensuring inclusion.
Dwayne Alleyne, Assistant Professor & alumnus
Why is it important for nursing to be inclusive and diverse? I feel that it is important for nursing to be inclusive and diverse because patients come from all walks of life. Not all the patients that we take care of will look like us, talk like us or dress like us. Having a diverse and inclusive group of nurses will improve patient outcomes and help combat implicit bias.
Nikita Pete, BSN, MSN, DNP alumna
How are you breaking barriers as an African American nurse? As an African American nurse practitioner, I am breaking barriers by being in a position that many of my ancestors did not have the opportunity to experience. I am able to be a leader within my community to help treat patients who look like me and to educate them to better understand their chronic illnesses while breaking barriers for generations to come. Education is very important and 90% of the time, I find myself educating patients and giving them real facts that they can understand. Facts that were never mentioned to them about their illnesses or how to manage their condition. I consider myself blessed to be that point of contact for my patients and my family to help improve our communities' health. I am so thankful for those who paved the way for me, and I will continue to carry the torch for those to come.
Tisha Felder, Assistant Professor
What are the barriers that you have faced as an African American researcher? The moment I aspired to become a researcher, I experienced my first barrier of being discouraged and questioned by established researchers: "Are you sure you can overcome the challenges to obtaining your PhD?" Ironically, the first researcher who tried to discourage me from this goal, was a researcher who led training efforts to increase the pipeline of scientists in cancer research. At that time, I was already a Masters-prepared, Presidential Management Fellow—a highly, nationally competitive program—and working at the National Cancer Institute. While I held back tears in that meeting, I did not allow that experience to dim my passion or change my decision.
Since becoming a researcher, I think many of the other barriers I have faced are not simply because I am African American. Rather, it's due to the intersectionality of who I am. I am African American, but I am also a woman, a first-generation college graduate in my family, first-generation academic and working parent. Given this, I have often been the "First (insert role)" in my academic and research experiences, which can be culturally and socially isolating. While African American researchers often figure out ways to continue moving forward in our careers, research and academic institutions must not view our individual advancements as an indicator that current diversity efforts are sufficient. Efforts aimed at improving diversity in science and academia must work to dismantle systemic barriers we face (e.g., discriminatory policies, implicit bias in hiring and promotion) as the end result will improve the scientific playing field for everyone.
Lea Swinton, BSN student & Chi Eta Phi member
Why is it important to have organizations within the college that represent African Americans? Having organizations like Chi Eta Phi on campus is an integral step to providing a safe space for black students. At UofSC and many other predominantly white institutions where nursing students' cohorts often contain less than ten African American students compared to the 100+ others, it is extremely easy to feel out of place. This can lead to constant doubt and wondering if you're even cut out for nursing school. Having Chi Eta Phi meetings and events where mostly everyone looks like you and people rally behind you with support helps to remind you that you belong.
Whitney Sudduth, Administrative Coordinator
How have the events of 2020 (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, etc.) impacted you as an African American? Police violence against Black people in America is not a new issue in the United States. Because of social media, acts of police violence in 2020 were more difficult for some people to ignore. The unjust killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others have left me emotionally drained and disappointed. It was my hope that the people who flooded Amazon and public libraries to obtain books on anti-blackness would use their newfound sense of enlightenment. There are people who still engage in victim-blaming rhetoric when they should call for justice. Others discount the safety concerns Black people in America have voiced and yet claim White privilege to be a false narrative. If "All lives Matter[ed]," the slaying of a Black woman who was in her home…in her bed…would leave everyone anguished. In years to come, I would like to see more non-minority "allies" ask how they can help in the celebration of Black History Month. As Allison Dorsey once wrote, "Black History is American History".
Lori Vick, Associate Professor
How does the College of Nursing promote diversity and inclusivity? The College of Nursing is dedicated to having a diverse and inclusive workplace and academic environment. To achieve these goals, Dr. Jeannette Andrews, Dean of the college, and Dr. Coretta Jenerette, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity, have taken actions to ensure the college reflects its values and the Carolinian Creed. This has been done by various means, including but not limited to, developing a program of holistic admissions to level opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds and offering invitations to diverse faculty and staff to take part in critical and empowering conversations on topics related to racial equity. These actions have resulted in forums where open communication was encouraged. The forums inspired increased awareness and understanding among faculty, staff, and observers. Communication was an essential component to creating partnerships that have led to taking actionable steps to sustain a diverse and inclusive college further.