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DEI Spotlight Series

The PSO DEI Committee is looking forward to amplifying the exceptional work of Professional Staff committed to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging work on our campus and creating environments where all individuals can thrive.

Our first awardee for our inaugural 2024 DEIB Newsletter series is Kahlea Williams, Manager of Program Operations at the UW Nursing Center for Antiracism. She discusses how she envisions DEIB work taking shape on our campus by advancing health equity and provides invaluable advice on how to get started on work in this space.

You can read more about what DEIB work means to Kahlea below and hear of ongoing projects that are making a tangible impact on students, faculty, and staff in our community! Please submit colleagues or departments engaged in innovative DEI work on this form here to highlight for this upcoming academic year 

Q&A with Kahlea Williams (she/her) – Manager of Program Operations, UW Nursing Center for Antiracism

Can you share a bit about how your lived experience informed your career path and one aspect of your work that you are most passionate about? 

I have an intimate understanding of what marginalization and oppression mean. I was one of few brown kids in my elementary and middle school and I understood from an early age how exclusion feels. As I got older, I learned more about how this functions in a large-scale systemic way, and I knew dismantling this system was work I needed to be a part of. I am most excited about the relationship between systems and behavior. The way an organizational or community system is structured shapes the way people behave, which has implications for DEI. We can make our spaces more just and equitable by leveraging that relationship, I believe. Making spaces inclusive and equitable for the most marginalized and vulnerable will improve the space for EVERYONE. 


What inspires your DEIB+ work and what aspect makes it significant to you?

Local, grassroots activism in all sectors but especially healthcare-focused has always inspired my work. The little things really do matter, and that’s easy to forget when you work within such a large system like UW. I studied social work for my undergrad degree, and I learned about the power of organizing and the hallmarks of successful social and political movements, both large and small, and I come back to those examples in my work daily. I think the field of healthcare (especially nursing) is entirely too conservative, however, and could learn a thing or two from radical grassroots movements. 


Have you identified some challenges diverse groups are facing on our campus or in your department and can you share a recent project/initiative that you are working on to overcome these? 

One problem with healthcare education is the lack of representation in our textbooks (and other materials) of diverse identities. MPS CARE in Nursing is attempting to address this by inviting students (and faculty and staff) to submit examples they find in their textbooks and other educational materials to our submission form, and we will collect these and send the examples to publishers, urging them to update their content. We will also use the submissions to help our own faculty make informed decisions when selecting educational materials for their courses. We hope to influence publishers to adopt a more critical editorial strategy and support our faculty in learning and teaching critical appraisal of educational materials. Learn more about the: Anti-Racism & DEI Course Materials Pilot Project – Manning Price Spratlen Center for Anti-Racism & Equity in Nursing ( 


What advice would you offer for those that would like to get started on DEIB+ work? 

Just start where you are! Don’t ask for permission. You don’t need a DEI title or certificate to do this work. Start a committee with other like-minded individuals and do what you can from your sphere of influence. There are so many realms that DEI touches that it’s helpful to know what type of work you like to do first, and then think about how you can apply DEI principles to that work niche. We need people thinking about DEI in all departments, not just the DEI-specific departments.   


What are your plans and hopes for your DEIB+ work in the next year at the UW? 

My hope is to see continued investment in DEI initiatives across UW, and especially across our 3 campuses. My hope is that those in leadership positions will muster the courage to do what’s right and not necessary what’s popular with donors.   


What does inclusion look and feel like in the workplace and what are some key behaviors that are effective in advancing DEIB+ work? 

To me inclusion feels like no longer having to put on the “mask”. It means everyone knows my identities and rather than ignoring them, they are embraced and valued. I am seen as a whole person and not just my job title (or rank).    

Key behaviors:   

  • Normalizing pronoun usage / asking for pronouns.   
  • Providing accessibility info ahead of events and meetings.  
  • Consistent internal communication about DEI expectations—convey to the whole community that it is an expectation and it’s intended to be part of the fabric of the culture. And act on those claims.
  • Consistent internal communication about DEI expectations—convey to the whole community that it is an expectation and it’s intended to be part of the fabric of the culture. And act on those claims.  


Are you able to recommend any books or other resources to support others who are new on their journey in advancing equity and/or inclusion? 

There are very few DEI-specific books I can recommend. Rather, I recommend grounding one’s DEI practice in social and political theory. Corporatized-DEI is devoid of theory, that’s why it’s not effective. Start with social and political theory readings and branch out from there based on your interests.   

Some DEI-specific books I can recommend:   

  • Undermining Racial Justice by Mathew Johnson  
  • The Pink Elephant by Janice G. Asare  

Theory/non-DEI specific books:   

  • Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey  
  • Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree brown
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • Body and Soul by Alondra Nelson
  • Feminist Theory from Margin to Center by bell hooks
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Pablo Freire 


Please feel free to add any other thoughts that you would like to share regarding your vision for DEIB. 

In this work, people will always doubt you, undermine your work, tell you why it’s not practical, say “we tried that before”, etc., etc. Even the “allies” will do this. There will always be excuses because systems don’t want to change. Ignore the resistance, find co-conspirators, and just keep going.   


Thank you, Kahlea, for speaking with us and for all of the work that you do! Please submit colleagues or departments engaged in innovative DEI work on this form here to highlight for this upcoming academic year