From the Desk of Diversity

Office of Diversity & Inclusion

Special Issue: 2015 Graduate Spotlight

This special issue is dedicated to our hard-working Diversity Scholars who are making the university a great place to learn and work. Here we feature three graduating Diversity Scholars. They have reflected upon their experience and thank the community for their support while at Northwestern.

Kimberly Christensen

When I started the Masters of Oriental Medicine program back in September 2012, I knew that I wanted to be an engaged, active member of the campus community. Now, as graduation quickly approaches and I think back over the last 3 years, I feel immense gratitude. As a Diversity Scholar, club leader, mentor, peer tutor, and someone who is generally involved with lots of things, I have had incredible opportunities to form personal connections, share my voice, and learn about topics well beyond that of my coursework.


What stands out most to me is that my time here at Northwestern has deepened my resolve to move through the world with a social justice lens and an activist voice. This is not because of an existing curriculum here on campus that explores topics of diversity, inclusion, and social justice as part of our coursework, or because of an established lecture or educational series hosted by our campus administration. It has been the distinct absence of this focus on our campus that has made me, and many other passionate students, dedicated to working in student clubs, focus groups, and campus organizations to share diverse voices and create change. Being a Diversity Scholar has empowered me to share my point of view, work toward the change I want to see on our campus and in my community, and connect with like-minded and dedicated students, faculty, staff, and administration.


Since my first year of the program, I have been active on campus discussing LGBTQ+ cultural competency and health advocacy. What started as Northwestern Open Doors became the Gender & Sexuality Alliance, and during my time as president and vice-president, this student organization has provided a platform to introduce topics of gender, sexuality, identity, and intersectionality that were not often discussed openly on campus. Through trainings and talks on campus and volunteer events off campus, club members and attendees at GSA events have had the opportunity to broaden their awareness and learn ways to communicate respectfully with people of varied identities. It has been a great honor to create spaces where people are able to ask questions, share personal stories, and learn from each other. And I have learned a lot too! As the torch has been passed to new leadership, I have enjoyed seeing how current president Mike Romanski brings new direction to the club’s programming, and I am excited to see how future students grow the voice of GSA as time goes on.


Educational opportunities on issues of diversity, inclusion, social justice, and intersectionality are vital for how we work together as a campus community, and how we, as future practitioners, build respectful and affirming relationships with patients. Through education, community building, and sometimes challenging conversations, I believe it is possible to continue creating positive changes on our campus. Although there is still significant work to be done at our institution to welcome and affirm the experiences and identities of all people in our classrooms, offices, fitness facilities, and clinics, the changes I have noticed in my time here are significant and exciting. Go, team! This is a collaborative effort that takes dedication and courage, I hope Northwestern takes advantage of the incredible opportunity to make this a safe, inclusive space for everyone through on-going changes in policies, procedures, programming, communication, and facilities. Surely, the dedicated members of the Office of Diversity of Inclusion will play a vital role in this process — and I hope many others on campus will too.


I am deeply grateful for the generous support of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, for the learning opportunities provided by the multiple diversity and cultural organizations, and for the ways I’ve been able to engage in our growing campus community. I have found increased personal confidence and feel more grounded in my identity as a queer woman, have identified the complexities of my own privilege, and have learned ways to speak up for those who may not have the opportunity to speak up for themselves. I will carry this with me as I embark on the next phase of this journey and join the Chinese medicine profession. I value my experience here, and look forward to continuing a relationship with Northwestern for years to come. Here’s to the future!

Emma Broderick

My experience with the Office of Diversity & Inclusion has been critical in helping shape my understanding of caring for a diverse patient population. It heightened my sensitivity, not just to identities of which I brought a range of knowledge, experience and reflection on to Northwestern, such as gender and ethnicity, but to more identities that were less familiar to me when I arrived at Northwestern. This was no less important in my development as a practitioner, and I am now able to serve the entire community with sensitivity and understanding.


Let me begin, then, by recounting specific examples of my direct experience with ODI and how those interactions played out in my everyday practice. I will then move on to discuss the indirect influence of the office on the entire learning environment at Northwestern and how that influence has shaped my attitudes and practice.

My most direct interaction with ODI has come as a result of the monthly meetings ODI conducts and that involve staff members of the office, faculty members and scholarship students like myself. Each month ODI discusses topics of diversity, and how to communicate with other students in a sensitive and productive way about working with diverse populations. While each of these meetings tended to focus on certain issues concerning diversity, the most important impact of this experience has been, understandably, cumulative in nature. Not just the issues, but the great value of discussing these issues on a regular basis in an open, collaborative environment was itself one of the most significant learning experiences I had during my time at Northwestern.


One of the biggest direct impacts on me was my experiences attending seminars organized and presented by the Gender Sexuality Alliance –a group of students that work with ODI to create awareness about issues of equality and acceptance of gender and sexuality, particularly in the health care field.

Another important contribution to my development was the opportunity ODI gave me to work with others in reviewing recommendations from students and faculty for the Diversity Championship Awards then getting to cast a vote for those individuals I felt engaged most effectively with issues of inclusion.


I was also able to help start the Mentorship Club with Angela Current, another Diversity Scholar. The club matched seasoned students with new students, while aiming to help new students integrate into the Northwestern community. My role was matching applications of potential mentors with mentees, which gave me experience in applying critical thinking skills in the matching of students from different backgrounds.


My most important indirect experience was meeting students from diverse backgrounds, all of them making conscientious efforts to create more inclusion and awareness on campus and in the community-at-large. Through those connections I was invited to participate in events outside of school and to develop friendships that in turn helped raise my awareness of inclusion and diversity.


None of these significant experiences would have been possible without the generous scholarship I received from Northwestern and the doors this scholarship opened for me both within Northwestern and beyond. Thank you.

Dawn Pivec

As I reflect on my time studying Traditional Chinese Medicine at Northwestern Health Sciences University, the main thing that comes to me is my sense of community with my fellow students, staff, and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. My respect and pride has increased immensely for acupuncturists after truly understanding the amount of education we need. I have seen all of the students in my cohort at the end of their rope year after year when midterm and final exams rolled around and I saw them constantly pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. I have never encountered a group of people who have so much determination and intelligence. They are going to change the world. We’ve been through a lot together and I love each of them dearly.


I cannot express how much care I received from the staff. Dr. Ma’s gentle metaphors about nature will always stick with me. Tao’s unwillingness to allow a point to be a little bit off in Point Location class has been vital to my clinical experience. John Pirog’s reassurance that we would eventually understand TCM got me through the first grueling year of school. Kathy Allen’s warm hug and assurance that everything would be ok with taking a leave of absence as I was coping with the death of my grandmother was critical to my healing. Christian Hanson’s knowledge on building a wonderful career gave me the confidence to start building my own practice. Yong Ping’s intelligence and knowledge has inspired me and has given me someone to consistently look up to. I could go on and on but for the sake of sticking to the 500 word requirement, I’ll stop here.


Social Justice has always been an important aspect of my life. After being a therapist for 7 years and especially after working at Lino Lakes Prison, my need to see people working together to make change is very strong. The monthly meetings with the ODI allowed me to see my fellow students working together to make chances in the university. Dr. Dashe has been paramount to instilling passion in us and allowing us the ability to do what we are best at. I have asked her to go to bat with me to address an uncomfortable situation around discrimination and she did so with loving ferocity. I have faith that the ODI will continue to make consistent improvements in diversity issues for the years to come. I’m certain that the Diversity Scholarship will help bring excellent leaders to communities to make huge changes in health care.


I’m proud to say that the Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion Club (JEDI) has accomplished a lot during the past three years. I was fortunate enough to be president of the club during my second year of school. During my first year in the club a major highlight for me was putting together the Lunar New Year Celebration. This was important for me to bring a bit of Asian culture to the university in the form of dance, music, and food as it’s something that we don’t necessarily learn about. Throughout the years, we were also able to bring presenters to the university to assist students in learning about different populations. Some examples of presentations were on eating disorders, homelessness, victims of torture, and the Somali culture. We were also able to bring new articles and books to the library on social justice issues. We saw plays, had groups outside of school to tell our stories around diversity and our TED Talks on racial issues have been a big hit as well.


Receiving this scholarship has been the greatest gift of my life. I plan to consistently pay back what has been given to me to the community. My area of interest is working with people who are experiencing homelessness, racism, or oppression in any form. My favorite internship was at the Salvation Army as I was able to help people who would not normally have access to excellent alternative health care. Keep up the good work, NWSHU, on providing such wonderful opportunities! I plan to volunteer my time at various community centers or by giving my services away in the form of auctions or awards for fundraising for specific programs to help people in need. I’m sure many opportunities will come to me and I look forward to it immensely.


My hope is that NWHSU continue to grow in the area of training future health professionals in multicultural issues. I’m very appreciative of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and all of their efforts, but I also hope to see changes on a systemic level including special topic classes on different races, ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic status, etc. I’d also hope to see the predominantly white faculty receive training in these areas as well. Again, thank you so much for the scholarship. I am forever grateful.

Duag Tooj Thoj

I have lived with congenital torticollis my entire life. When I was younger, I was advised by multiple surgeons to get surgery to relieve the tension in my neck due to the torticollis, but surgery was never an option for me. Instead, I chose to live with the pain and discomfort of my condition. Five years ago, I discovered chiropractic. This was a life changing event for me. I finally found some relief for my discomfort. I found myself wondering why it took me so long to discover chiropractic, especially when there was a chiropractic school right in my backyard. I have always felt a strong pull to do something that can touch the lives of others. When I learned of the chiropractic program at Northwestern Health Sciences University, the decision was simple for me to become a chiropractor. I want to give chiropractic to others in much the same way that my chiropractor has touched my life through chiropractic. However, obtaining a chiropractic education does not come without cost. Thankfully for me, my spouse knew of a full scholarship that Northwestern offered to incoming chiropractic students. In the fall of 2012, I applied for and was awarded the Diversity Scholarship from Northwestern.


The past three-plus years have gone by very quickly, but not without its trials and tribulations. They range from passing anatomy exams in T1 and T2 to completing all four parts of chiropractic boards. In less than a month, I will graduate from Northwestern Health Sciences University with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. None of this would have been possible without the Diversity Scholarship. The knowledge I have gained during my time at Northwestern was all made possible by the Diversity Scholarship. Along the way, I have learned an enormous amount from the professors at Northwestern, and have met some amazing people whom I will call friends for the rest of my life. I owe a debt of gratitude to Northwestern and its staff and faculty that I will never be able to repay.


I want to specifically acknowledge the contributions that Dr. Alejandra Dashe made towards my development at Northwestern. She has been an invaluable advisor to me, helping guide me through the demanding chiropractic program. She also helped me start the Asian Culture Club at Northwestern. This club has been instrumental in exposing and educating the Northwestern community to various Asian cultures. It has also been a valuable source of support for students. Thank you, Dr. Dashe.


Five years ago, it would have been hard for me to imagine where I am presently. I would have brushed off anyone who told me that in five years, I would be in Miami bringing chiropractic care to its residents. However, Northwestern Health Sciences University and its staff and faculty, and the Diversity Scholarship allowed for all this to happen. As I look forward to graduation, I welcome the new challenge that has been laid before me and look forward to providing chiropractic care to all who are in need of it. Northwestern has prepared me well and I aim to go forward and touch lives by introduce chiropractic to those who are in need of it. And I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that I received at Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Thank you, Diversity Scholars!

My experience with our Diversity Scholars is incredible. I work every day with 26 students (and growing) on health equity, social justice, inclusion, and diversity. These fantastic students create Northwestern’s welcoming culture. Let me tell you, their energy is infectious. They share with all of us how much passion they have for our university.


Diversity Scholars are on the pulse of diversity and inclusion work. They have thirteen cultural clubs and I am sure more will be created. They develop new opportunities and partnerships with organizations that support college entrance, anti-racism work, and health equity efforts. They go to trainings on their own time and then teach that knowledge to our campus community. They plan several celebrations that have brought in hundreds of community members to see what we can do. They volunteer at Northwestern and important organizations that benefit our society. They extend themselves into our community above and beyond their full-time studies in acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic.


Diversity Scholars show Northwestern what it means to live, learn, and serve healthy. I am in awe of what, how, and why they do what they do.


Thank you, Diversity Scholars, for all that you do for Northwestern. It is my privilege to work and serve with you. Congratulations on another successful year and extra special congratulations to our graduates!


Submitted by Alejandra Dashe, adashe@nwhealth.edu

Office of Diversity & Inclusion

The purpose of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is to create a richer understanding of humanity, education and health care. Our responsibility to Northwestern is to ensure that we have an inclusive, diverse and safe environment for all members of the University community and communities we serve.