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Diversity and Inclusion Office encourages UMass Chan community to ‘move toward an abundance mindset’ during Pie Week Nov 15-19

Date Posted: Monday, November 15, 2021
By: Janjay Innis, UMass Chan Medical School Communications

Janjay InnisDiversity, equity and inclusion have become buzz words in many workplaces across the United States. These three words have led to candid conversations about racism, gender inequality, ageism and the discrimination of LGBTQ persons; dared us to acknowledge how these societal disparities play out in the workplace; and have called us to take radical steps to transform them.

While it is clear that the work environment will see positive changes such as increased productivity, creativity and a wider range of talent, the shift toward diversity, equity and inclusion prompts fear from some because of a perceived belief that if room is made for others, their piece of the corporate pie will be taken away.  

This fear of DEI is often rooted in the mindset of scarcity. With such an outlook, the workplace is perceived to be a competitive environment where meritocracy, or lack thereof, is upheld instead of an acknowledgement of the imbedded systems and ideologies that keep marginalized groups from being fully seen, recognized and heard. Those in fear, believing that only a chosen few are allowed to make it up the top of the corporate ladder, begin to see their colleagues as hinderances, thus creating angst and toxicity in the workplace. Consequently, the status quo is maintained in the workplace, no risks are taken, no creativity or growth is experienced, and failure becomes inevitable due to the lack of adaptability to change.  

abundancy quoteNovember is Native American Heritage Month and something that remains a core belief across tribal groups is the concept of gratitude. Deadulus, a journal of the American Academy of Arts and Science, describes the indigenous embodiment of gratitude in its fall 2001 issue as “a feeling of overwhelming love and thankfulness for the gifts of the Creator and the earth and the universe.”

Where there is an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness, there is an understanding of abundance and this month, the Diversity and Inclusion Office, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Marlina Duncan, EdD, and in celebration of Pie Week Nov. 15–19, invites the UMass Chan Medical School community to adopt an abundance over scarcity mindset. With the theme, “Moving Toward an Abundance Mindset,” the event will feature the distribution of pies daily at the exit of the COVID testing site in the Faculty Conference Room adjacent to the lobby of the Medical School building.

The DIO envisions that the community is one in which a colleague’s gain does not correlate to another’s loss, but rather, a culture where everyone feels valued and has an opportunity for their gifts and talents to be shared across the institution. 

The mindset of abundance is not unique to native American culture. In African culture, it is best expressed through the concept of Ubuntu, which conceptually means, “I am, because you are.” This idea recognizes that humanity is inextricably linked and as one becomes the best version of themselves, others in proximity will reap positive benefits.

In his 1983 publication, “Indulgence and Abundance as Asian Peasant Values,” in the Journal of Asian Studies; Paul Greenough, professor emeritus at the University of Iowa, explores the notion of abundance through the significance of paddy fields to Bengali rice farmers.

“Paddy wealth has no real magnitude, being abundant by definition and always sufficient for its purpose. That purpose, of course, is consumption, and it is wealth in the form of paddy and rice that enables gods, kings and masters of families to play their role of destined providers of subsistence. Paddy wealth enabling one to feed others is thus equivalent to kingly wealth or abundance.”

What if both in the workplace and in our societal interactions we saw our ability to give and make room for others as equivalent to abundance?

All around us, the rich cultures of the diverse people that make up the American workforce teach us about how to be in community with one another. In this season of thanksgiving, such ideas should be something to consider. 

Janjay Innis writes about diversity, equity and inclusion topics at UMass Chan Medical School.