Meet Your Equity & Inclusion Community Health Organizers
Lana Bridi, a sophomore studying mathematics and human biology, has experienced being a minority in a mostly homogenous community. “My family lives in Tulare County in the central valley, which is not very diverse. We are the only Syrians there that we know.”
When she moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, Bridi was impressed by the vast array of different communities within the Trojan Family. She also wanted to do her part to enhance equity and inclusion for every member.
“I was surprised by how well the community thrived, but I wanted to see how we can sustain diversity and ensure it is equitable,” she said. “If a campus isn’t diverse or individuals feel excluded, that can negatively impact well-being, academic performance, and mental health.”
Bridi, who plans to attend medical school so she can provide health care in underserved, rural areas like her hometown, says she hasn’t had any negative experiences at USC so far. But she says her identities as a Muslim and as a student with a disability easily fly under the radar.
“I identify as Muslim, but I don’t physically show that I am. But I know women who wear the hijab and have sometimes felt uncomfortable,” she said. “Also, as a student with a disability that is not outwardly apparent, I have not experienced what students with outwardly physical disabilities have experienced.”
Bridi and her community health organizer counterpart, Jennifer Tarm, are charged with exploring how equity and inclusion can be better achieved for all communities at USC.
Tarm is a first-year master’s student in marriage and family therapy, so listening to the perspectives of others with empathy and compassion is right up her alley.
“It’s so fascinating how everyone has a different walk in life, and I love hearing their stories and connecting with them,” said Tarm. “This was also an opportunity to have an impact on a larger scale. In my classes, we always talk about how larger systems impact our clients, and this is a way to impact the systems.”
The subject of equity also resonates with Tarm: “People confuse equity and equality. Equality is treating everyone the same, and equity is realizing there are different paths towards the same goal and understanding people have different needs and barriers and ways to get to a sense of belonging.”
Instead of focusing on specific student subpopulations, Tarm and Bridi will start with a diverse mixture of students to establish a baseline understanding as little information has been collected on the subject prior to fall 2018: “We want to see where students are, and we’re just trying to get information now,” says Tarm. “It’s exciting. What are we going to find out?”