Associate Professor Heather Howard named the recipient of the 2023 College of Social Science Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Excellence Award

Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Heather Howard has been named the College of Social Science’s recipient of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Award. This award recognizes a faculty member who plays a leadership role in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion by demonstrating activities which may include serving underrepresented populations, developing or implementing innovative programs that enhance participation and opportunity, or enhancing the ability and effectiveness of the College to be an inclusive and welcoming environment.

The Office of the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offers the Dean’s Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Awards once every two years. On even years, staff and graduate students receive awards. On odd years, faculty and undergraduate students receive awards.

“I think the award really brings attention to something that’s even more important than ever, to amplify the value of diversity,” Howard said.  

“It’s due to our diversity and our capacity to learn from our diversity that has led us to be where we are. I think if we weren’t adaptable to change, and exercising our capacity to learn, we wouldn’t be around right now. Diversity is so fundamental to the flourishing of human beings, and we need to really play to that human strength.” 

Howard has been a faculty member in the department of Anthropology since 2009. Before that, she was a visiting Ph.D. fellow and instructor from 2002 to 2004 and was an adjunct faculty member from 2007 to 2008. She has dedicated her career and research to advancing DEI efforts. She was recognized with the College of Social Science Diversity Champion Award in 2021. Howard was previously recognized as an Exemplary Diversity Scholar, National Center for Institutional Diversity in 2010 and was the Outstanding Faculty Award recipient from the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities in 2008.  

“I have a genuine interest and honesty in wanting to learn from other people, no matter what their background, and to really elevate that in the classroom as something that all the students understand so that they can learn from each other, and that everybody has something important to contribute,” Howard said.  

Howard primarily works with Indigenous communities and her research focuses on addressing social and structural inequities. Her research is carried out in a variety of settings including community centers, museums, clinics, and schools. 

“My commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) excellence are integrated across my research, teaching, and service, which are centered on Indigenous community-identified priorities that cohere around decolonizing well-being and intersectional justice,” Howard said.

“My career centers on collaborative, Indigenous community-driven scholarship firmly grounded in Indigenous knowledge frameworks, solid relationship building, and the advancement of research meaningful to communities. This service to Indigenous communities is fundamental to every dimension of my work as a scholar, not because it sustains the trust needed to carry out research with Indigenous communities, but because it informs my responsibilities to serve the transformation of environments to be inclusive, value diversity, advance social justice, and support others in the realization of their full potential. This therefore extends to my work beyond Indigenous communities to the systems of social and cultural services, healthcare, and education that are usually the sites of my research.” 

Howard hopes she can inspire other professors and colleagues to be more inclusive while diversifying their research. 

“There is so much work that needs to be done to help people open their minds and realize how their work can be diversified, how they can be inclusive, how their work can be oriented towards social justice.” 

Within the Department of Anthropology, Howard has recommended that professors create their own DEI statements, so students feel more included and welcome. 

“I thought this might serve as a personal guide for individuals to identify how they might strive to meet DEI goals in their research, teaching, and service, and encourage conscious integration and personal reflection to get there.”