Kim Tarver, MPT, professor of physical therapist assistant at Elgin Community College, looks to use every avenue available to pursue equity, diversity, and inclusion. From integrating diverse case studies into her curriculum to leading the faculty union to more equitable practices, Tarver believes anyone can have an impact no matter where they sit at the table.
She began with the Multicultural and Global Initiatives Committee (MAGIC), serving as the co-chair for many years. She stepped aside from that role and is in her second term as president of the ECC Faculty Association (ECCFA).
"We see various practices in higher education as normal, but until we start looking at the data – we need to use different glasses to analyze what we are doing and how we are doing it," says Tarver. "Educators may have very good intentions, but we're unknowingly putting up barriers, raising the bar, or creating impossible challenges for people to obtain their education."
Tarver's passion for EDI has resulted in several notable changes. She was part of an ECC delegation to the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education, where she encountered Cris Cullinan, PhD, founder of Actual Leadership in Vital Equity (ALiVE), a higher education coalition dedicated to creating strategies that increase equity and inclusion on campuses. In 2015, Tarver's connection with Cullinan led to developing and implementing a professional development workshop titled "Seeking Cultural Consciousness and Competence in Hiring.” Now, completion of this workshop is required for ECC employees before they serve on a hiring committee.
"Hiring committees used to include one representative from MAGIC," Tarver remembers. "It felt like this was just one voice on the committee advocating for equitable hiring practices when really, it should be everyone's business to attend to these matters and minimize the impact of biases." The interactive workshop facilitated by Cullinan, helps employees learn to identify their own implicit biases and better evaluate potential employees' cultural competence. "It's really about providing practical tools for the process." she says.
Tarver also advocated for ECC to add an EDI administrator to its leadership ranks. In 2021, this push came to fruition when ECC hired Anthony Ramos as its first Executive Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. "My department is working with Mr. Ramos to get more guidance on holistic changes we can make to open the doors of this program to more students," says Tarver.
Tarver also strives to make the curriculum as inclusive as possible in her physical therapy assistant classrooms. "I want my students to have the skills and knowledge to provide effective patient care," she says, "but I also want them to have a sense of awareness of the impact cultural experience, race, and ethnicity have on their relationships with their patient population. I think that's really key to have culturally sensitive practitioners." Students examine case studies involving people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations, gender expression, class, and ages. She's even taken on textbook publishers for selling materials that only include white patients and diagrams.
Over the years, Tarver has seen a change in the makeup of her students, but she wants to do more to open the doors of this profession to students of color. She's taking her passion to the state level as a member of the Illinois Physical Therapy Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Task Force, which she will chair for 2022. "The pipeline for allied healthcare professionals in the state of Illinois is overwhelmingly white," she notes. "We need to do better in promoting these professions and making them accessible to all students, from programs in middle school to introduce these professions, all the way to making the admissions process more equitable. That's what inspires me to keep going."
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