Diversity Fellow Project, Graciela "Zonnie" Olivas

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Sonoran UCEDD Demographic Data Collection Guidelines

Sonoran UCEDD Demographic Data Collection Guidelines [download]

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Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
During my Diversity Fellowship experience, I learned about the AUCD network, engaged with other AZ Sonoran UCEDD (SUCEDD) fellows and fellows across the nation, and sharpened my academic skills in presentation and writing. I also had the privilege of getting to know SUCEDD stakeholders and ultimately collaborated with them to develop a capstone project devoted to improving the cultural and linguistic competence of the SUCEDD. In an effort to increase inclusion, the SUCEDD undertook a cultural and linguistic competence (CLC) self-assessment, the results of this initial self-assessment identified areas of improvement which was reported back to internal SUCEDD stakeholders. The development of a seven-person cultural and linguistic competence workgroup followed. The workgroup came up with the following recommendation to improve cultural and linguistic competence: Create a tool and process to collect social identity and language data from stakeholders. This tool will be used to consistently collect and analyze demographic data to ensure SUCEDD services cater to the needs of representative populations in Arizona.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
My capstone project was focused on developing a CLC competence policy within the Sonoran UCEDD in order to better measure the inclusivity of its programs and services. Having conversations about CLC policy helped SUCEDD stakeholders be more aware of the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion which ultimately helped define our next steps, including developing recommended policy and procedures. Once it was discovered that demographic information was not being collected consistently by SUCEDD programs, stakeholders and the workgroup agreed to set in place recommendations for data collection in order to accurately know the populations served by the SUCEDD. This project brought to light the complex identities of individuals with disabilities. To collect information about language, culture, and racial/ethnic background is necessary in order to address the different aspects of one’s identity and ensure the SUCEDD is responsive to community needs.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
I chose to develop a tool for data collection after the need was revealed during the analysis of SUCEDD CLC self-assessment data. Prior to the Diversity Fellowship, I assisted in the collection and analysis of the SUCEDD’s CLC self-assessment. In analyzing this data, I became curious as to what information the SUCEDD had on the demographics of the population they serve and how it compares to the rest of the state of Arizona. I quickly found that we did not have this information as demographic information of recipients of UCEDD services was not consistently collected across the SUCEDD’s multiple programs. This led to the idea of creating a data collection tool as my capstone project. The workgroup and I determined that a good first step towards achieving inclusion is to first identify the population we are serving and their respective needs.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
Being a Diversity Fellow has been a transformative experience and fostered both my personal and academic growth. First, I gained valuable mentorship from Sonoran UCEDD staff, faculty members, and other diversity fellows. As an undergraduate student who was new to research and evaluation, I found the guidance and support of my peers and SUCEDD team to be a huge contributor to my success. I enjoyed working alongside the other more senior diversity fellows, and I learned much from their discussions about their PhD programs. Learning from their academic and professional experience has also reaffirmed my desire to continue my education and acquire a graduate degree.

As an undergraduate researcher, I’ve also acquired new and valuable skills through my experience as a diversity fellow. Working with a diverse group of stakeholders showed me how to be an effective communicator so I could convey my thoughts and perspectives to the group. I often found myself needing to take initiative in leading discussion, adapt my communication style, and be open to listening to the constructive inputs from others. I learned research is a collaborative experience and cannot be achieved without the thoughts and perspectives of others.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
In my public health graduate education and in my career, I aim to serve people from underrepresented backgrounds as a health science researcher and healthcare professional. Within these professional roles, the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from this Fellowship will prove to be invaluable as disability is an experience that nearly everyone will encounter in their lifetime. Having an understanding and awareness of the disability perspective will allow me to be a better advocate for my patients and community members with disability.

I’ve learned through this Fellowship that disability is often not thought of as a minority group nor is it often discussed. Even I was very unfamiliar with field of disability prior to the fellowship; therefore, to educate professionals outside of the disability field is necessary to ensure the experience of those with disabilities is acknowledged in research, health care, and health policy.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I am approaching the completion of my undergraduate degree and my subsequent academic goal of applying for the University of Arizona’s Master of Public Health degree program. After completion of my MPH, I plan to then apply for admission into the UA medical school rural medicine program. I strongly believe that acquiring expertise in both public health and clinical medicine will allow me to view health on a wider scope of practice and achieve improvements in overall community health. As a physician, the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from my time at the SUCEDD and as a diversity fellow will be significant in helping me address the health care needs of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

7. What recommendations do you have for other Fellows?
My recommendation for future Fellows is to approach this experience with enthusiasm and an open mind, you never know what you’re going to learn or who you’re going to meet. Coming into this Fellowship, I was unfamiliar with the field of disability and knew very little about disability policy and practice. I have since learned a lot and my knowledge about the importance of person-centered care and inclusive services will make me a better health-care provider and advocate.

This Fellowship has given me confidence as an undergraduate researcher and although the collaborative process was trying at times, I became an even better communicator and learned from the constructive input from my peers. I’ve gained valuable mentorship which has opened doors to other professional and academic opportunities.

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