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An Interview with Antoinette Farmer Incoming Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
July 15, 2020

Rutgers School of Social Work is pleased to announce the appointment of three new associate deans effective September 1, 2020 including Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Antoinette Y. Farmer. Stepping into an inaugural role, Farmer will provide overall strategic leadership to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, chair and facilitate the new School-wide IIDEA (Inclusion, Intersectionality, Diversity, Equity and Advancement) committee, and work collaboratively with the School's senior leadership to set priorities and policies.

Dr. Farmer joined the School in 1996 and is the first African American female tenured in the history of the School. She has also held leadership positions, including serving for 13 years as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs here at Rutgers, alongside her many national social work connections, including long service on the CSWE Commission on Accreditation. “We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Dr. Farmer’s standing in our School, and even more fortunate to have her leadership in this position,” says Dean Cathryn C. Potter.

"At this time in the history of the Rutgers School of Social Work, the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position is being created to underscore the School's continued commitment to having diverse and inclusive educational and work environments that allow diversity to thrive in its various forms," Farmer explains. "The creation of this position goes beyond merely noting the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our mission statement but brings it to the forefront of our collective consciousness. The Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will be empowered on behalf of the Dean to develop a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan, and will be supported by an infrastructure that will ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion is of paramount importance and is embedded with the School's culture." 

Farmer describes the focus of her first year in this role in four parts: (1) Engage with an external consultant to complete a diversity, equity, and inclusion review of the SSW; (2) Develop a diversity strategic plan based on the recommendations from the assessment of the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion dynamics; (3) Begin revision of curriculum for each of the programs; and (4) Develop and initiate programming for faculty, staff, and students related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

"Attending to the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion is an ongoing process and requires us to reflect on the work we do both inside and outside of the School," Farmer says. 

More specifically, Farmer is clear in sharing that the diversity of the IIDEA committee and leadership should reflect the diversity of SSW's student body as students should be able to visualize themselves in those that are instructing and leading them, making policies affecting them, and socializing them into the profession. Faculty, staff, and students from the School will be on the IIDEA committee.

“Students across the nation are asking university administrators to be more attentive to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. They are asking that curriculum be revised to include content from scholars from diverse backgrounds, for the hiring for faculty who reflect the population of the student body, and for more supports (financial, counseling, academic, etc.) for students from diverse backgrounds,” Farmer says.

Ultimately, Associate Dean and Professor Farmer remarks, "Courage paves the pathway toward change. You must have courage to speak up when things are not what they should be. Courage to partner with others to take action. And courage to implement the programs and policies that make the necessary change."  

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