Social Justice Mission
New Equity Officer, MPH alum Anika Lee, takes the reins of Touro California's social justice mission.
Social justice is at the heart of Touro University California’s mission and the approach to social justice is layered and complex.
TUC’s aim is to open avenues to access for people in Vallejo and surrounding communities who might not have insurance, a primary care provider, or other hurdles care. Additionally, Touro recognizes the importance of seeking out students from many of these same underserved communities as a means of both creating opportunities for students who might be overlooked in some cases, and finding students who understand the unique obstacles facing these groups.
With such a complex landscape to navigate, TUC found it necessary to bring in a dedicated employee to ensure this mission is carried out in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Anika Lee, MPH, came to Touro as an alum of the Public Health program and utilizes the academic background she developed in that program in projects related to equity and inclusion as the university’s new Equity Officer.
Just a few months into her job, Lee has already overseen the development of TUC’s new Social Justice Resource Center, a space in the library that provides for learning, connection, and healing for students, faculty, and staff alike.
This mission, “represents an opportunity for students who have traditionally been underrepresented in the programs that are offered at Touro,” Lee said. “For many of these students, they’re first-generation immigrants, or the first in their family to go to college, so they’ve had to be their own best advocate in many cases.”
“Equity must come first in order for the presence and increase of diversity and inclusion to occur,” Lee said in her speech during the center’s ribbon-cutting.
“The center creates opportunities to identify the issues and connect them back to interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences,” Lee said.
Pillars like the Mosaic Scholarships, for example, not only celebrate this diversity on campus, but help create a sense of community within those students.
“There’s this whole group of students that you have this shared commonality with so you don’t go around feeling like some sort of token person,” Lee said. “You get this community of people from other programs, which is great, so you get to see how other people are coming to their paths in their professions.”
Touro’s location in Vallejo makes this diversity community all the more important. A 2012 Brown University study identified Vallejo as the most diverse community in the U.S. This helps students develop a greater connection to the community, Lee said.
“You begin to understand how you are connected to Vallejo as a Touro student. You start to ask yourself ‘how am I a stakeholder, how am I a changemaker, how am I an impacter?’”
And Lee understands clearly how Touro can affect students in a positive way. Her own degree program helped open this door to her.
“My program really gave me the tools I needed to be an advocate,” Lee said. A big question she faced upon graduating was, “how can I use my degree in Public Health to create change?”
In her position as Equity Officer, the answer, in the short term at least, is one student at a time, one day at a time.