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Andrews University Social Consciousness Summit Examines the Socio-economic and Racial Disparities of the COVID-19 Pandemic


Andrews University hosted its 8th Annual Summit on Social Consciousness on Thursday, April 23, 2020. The theme of this year’s summit was “COVID-19: Understanding and Breaking the Socio-Economic and Racial Disparities.” The summit was held as a Facebook Live event and can be viewed below or on the Andrews University Facebook page. 

Co-sponsored by Spectrum Health Lakeland, the Andrews University Office for Diversity & Inclusion, the AU Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship, and the Office of the Provost, panel participants spent approximately 90 minutes discussing the socio-economic and racial disparities seen in various social groups and how they are affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Eight professionals representing the fields of population health, healthcare, social work, social & behavioral sciences, and diversity & inclusion talked through some of the underlying causes for the disproportionate impact on minority groups and how the pandemic may widen existing gaps.

Panel participants: 

•  Lynn Todman, PhD, Executive Director for Population Health, Spectrum Health Lakeland

•  Ingrid Slikkers, LMSW, CCTP, CCTS-I, Assistant Professor of Social Work MSW, LMSW, Andrews University

•  Twyla Smith, LLMSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work & Director of Field Education MSW, Andrews University

•  Nicki Britten, MPH, Health Officer, Berrien County Health Department, Berrien County Michigan

•  Harvey Burnett, PhD, Chair, School of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Associate Professor of Psychology, Andrews University

•  Anita Fernander, PhD, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky

•  Brandy Lovelady Mitchell, PhD, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Kent Intermediate School District

•  Padma P. Tadi Uppala, PhD, MPH, Chair, School of Population Health, Nutrition & Wellness; Director, Bachelor of Science in Public Health; Professor, MPH Environmental Health Population Health, Nutrition & Wellness; College of Health & Human Services, Andrews University

Summit Hosts:

•  Michael Nixon, Esq., Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion, Andrews University

•  Jeff Boyd, MA, MBA, Research Support Specialist, Office of Research and Creative Scholarship, Andrews University

Summit participants applied their areas of understanding and expertise to answer questions including:

•  How are the disparities that we’ve seen with COVID-19 impacting African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other minority groups?

•  What are the institutional structures and policies that may contribute to the disparities observed and how are they linked to systemic and institutional racism?

•  What role has historical and collective trauma played in the disproportionate number of people of color contracting and dying from this and other conditions?

•  Could the disparities that are showing up be linked to culture and socialization?

•  What are some of the social economic ramifications for how the stimulus packages have been distributed and what are some of the short term and long-term effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities?

•  Thinking about strategies and policies to advocate for or work toward the implementation of What can stakeholders do to address the impact of COVID-19 on our communities?

•  If you had the ear of the world, what one thing would you recommend we do to create a more fair, just, and equitable society?

To view this timely, responsive, and informative dialogue from the Summit on Social Consciousness click here or watch below:

Andrews Speaks TV10: Social Consciousness Summit: Covid-19 from Andrews University on Vimeo.

The audio-only version of this summit is available by clicking here or listening below:


Fonda Seifert is associate editor for

Image courtesy of Andrews University.


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