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Diversity Questionnaire Response

Candidate for Overseer

Yvette Roubideaux AB ’85 cum laude, MD ’89, MPH ’97

Director, Policy Research Center, National Congress of American Indians
Washington, D.C.

1. How important should diversity be at Harvard? What strategies should the University pursue regarding this? (Please discuss specific programs and policies if you can.)  

Diversity should be a top priority at Harvard. One of the greatest benefits of a Harvard education is the opportunity to study, learn, and grow with outstanding diverse classmates.  Diversity is essential to the success of Harvard now and in the future.  As the country and the pool of applicants becomes more diverse, Harvard must be able to articulate the business case for how diversity is essential to its long term success.

The University should make regular statements about how diversity is a priority at Harvard, and should regularly report on and highlight activities that are implemented to achieve, improve, and sustain diversity in its students, faculty and employees.  Harvard should be a place where everyone has a chance to succeed.  Any strategies should have this goal in mind, and until every student feels welcome at Harvard and has the best chances to succeed, diversity efforts must be a top priority.

2. How can Harvard encourage more diversity among its alumni leaders and activities? (If not discussed above.) 

Participation in alumni activities is a challenge for many alumni as work and personal responsibilities grow throughout their career.  Alumni make choices, and for many reasons, diverse alumni may not participate or pursue leadership positions in alumni activities.  Understanding the reasons why all alumni, including diverse alumni, do not participate is an important step in understanding how to encourage participation.  Do we really know why diverse alumni may not participate?  Are the reasons the same or different than other alumni? What are the barriers?  What are the solutions?  Leadership needs to understand this type of input and data on a regular basis to understand the best ways to encourage more participation.  If the goal for diversity is to ensure that everyone has a chance to succeed, that goal also applies to alumni.  How do they successfully participate, and what are the benefits for them?  Alumni are important customers of the University, and like any business, their voices should be heard and programs should be tailored to their needs. 

3. Please state your views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. 

Affirmative action and race-conscious admissions have served an important purpose to help create a diverse study body that allows students to learn about the diverse world in which they will live and work after they complete school.  Generations of students have proven that diversity at Harvard is of benefit to the University, the faculty and the students.  How the university achieves that diversity may change over time, but the importance of a diverse University must remain a top priority.  For example, some medical schools are moving to holistic admissions where students are chosen through characteristics that help achieve the mission of the school, which in most cases requires a diverse student body for their students to be successful as physicians in caring for a diverse population. 

The mission of Harvard University is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society.  However the admissions process is managed, it must sustain and enhance the diversity at Harvard to represent the amazing diversity in our society and in our world in order to meet its mission.  While legal cases may be ongoing on this issue, the University should always make a strong commitment to educating our citizens and citizen-leaders to help meet its mission and benefit all members of our diverse society.

4. What do you think Harvard's role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive and just society? 


Harvard has always been a leader in admitting, educating and graduating the best students who will become leaders around the world.  If Harvard’s commitment to diversity means that every student should have a chance to succeed, then its programs by definition should advance equity, inclusiveness and a just society.  But Harvard cannot assume its commitment to diversity will result in those outcomes.  Harvard must demonstrate how its commitment to diversity results in those outcomes.  How does Harvard promote equity and inclusiveness in its student body? What proportion of Harvard graduates are conducting work that creates a more equitable, inclusive and just society?  Do students and alumni feel that Harvard is an equitable, inclusive and just environment?  What evidence does Harvard have to support that it does contribute to a more equitable, inclusive and just society?  A commitment to diversity is necessary but not sufficient; demonstrating evidence that Harvard’s work does create a more equitable, inclusive and just society is even more important.

5. What steps have you taken to bring diversity and inclusion to your workplace or to an organization that you have been involved with? 

My career has been focused on diversity and inclusion from several perspectives.  I became a doctor to help improve the quality of care for American Indians and Alaska Natives, who experience significant disparities and challenges.  I have worked to help students and physicians understand the importance of understanding the cultures and histories of the tribes they serve and to practice cultural humility, the latter of which requires a disciplined approach to treating each patient as the unique individual that they are, avoiding stereotypes, and hearing from them what they need to be well.  I have led programs in my faculty positions to encourage American Indians and Alaska Natives to enter health and research professions.  I learned through my experience in the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy during my Master of Public Health studies that broadening my perspective and learning from other diverse groups will help me better help my own people.  I have learned about the importance of designing research methods to capture the unique diversity of the individuals involved so that the results are more accurate and represent better science. I have experienced what it is like to be the only diverse voice at the table, even at the highest levels of government, and I have advocated strongly for the voices of my people to be heard. And I recently served as an Associate Dean for Diversity position at a medical school where I worked to help the new faculty and staff understand that promoting diversity means that their work must allow every student to have a chance to succeed.  I now work for an organization that is non-partisan in its work to advance the sovereignty of tribes in partnership with a network of diverse organizations and individuals.  My entire career has been focused on advocating for American Indians and Alaska Natives to achieve their dreams, to have a seat at the table and to have their best chance to succeed.

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