University News

WNE Center for Social Justice Receives Health New England Mini Grant to Address Racism in Springfield

Published: February 22, 2021 | Categories: Law, All News
Center for Social Justice logo

The Western New England University School of Law's Center for Social Justice has been awarded a $6,000 DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging) mini-grant from Health New England. The grant provides funding to local non-profit organizations that are actively addressing racial health equity and disparities, and at least one of the CDC's Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).

"As a mission-driven, not-for-profit health plan, Health New England seeks to improve the health and lives of all people in our communities," said Susan Silver O'Connor, Vice President and General Counsel for Health New England. "With this grant, Health New England deepens its commitment to addressing racial inequality and health disparities in Springfield and beyond through our partnership with the Center for Social Justice. Health New England supports the critical work of the Center in dismantling structural inequality to improve health outcomes and increase health equity through education and dialogue."

SDOH are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes; these include Healthcare Access and Quality, Education Access and Quality, Social and Community Context, Economic Stability, and Neighborhood and Built Environment.

Ariel Clemmer, Director of the Center for Social Justice remarked, "We are deeply grateful to Health New England for their support of this critical initiative and look forward to working with them as a partner in addressing the pervasive issue of racism as a social determinant of health in our community."

The grant, Addressing Racism as a SDOH through Restorative Racial Healing Dialogue, seeks to dismantle systemic racism in two ways. Clemmer explained that the project will "first educate the WNE University community about the connection between racism and health disparities and the structural barriers to equity that exist across society, and then will work to facilitate racial healing and relationship building between and among our institution and the local community through healing circle conversations."

Since its launch in 2019, the Center for Social Justice has been a key stakeholder in the pursuit of social justice in our community and beyond. In the last year, the Center has sponsored or hosted more than a dozen events, including various know your rights trainings and programming, panel discussions addressing the racial disparities of COVID-19, and lawyering in the time of Black Lives Matter, as well as speakers like Evan Wolfson, who is considered the "architect of the marriage equality movement." Its work is entirely grant funded from generous supporters like Health New England and the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, as well as individual donors.

The Western New England University's Center for Social Justice works toward advancing social justice through research, advocacy, education, innovation, and public engagement. It is designed to strengthen collaborative efforts between the School of Law and the region to work toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. The Center provides a centralized hub of activity for the School of Law's justice-related teaching, scholarship, and service. It broadens social justice academic offerings, helps students aspiring to be social justice lawyers achieve their goals, imbues a culture of pro bono volunteerism in students, faculty and other legal professionals, manages in-house pro bono projects, and works closely with community organizations and partners to identify and address unmet needs that require a multi-dimensional response cutting across law and other fields. For more information, visit the Center for Social Justice website.

About Health New England
Based in Springfield, Massachusetts, Health New England is a not-for-profit health plan serving members in Massachusetts and Connecticut. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Baystate Health, Health New England offers a range of health care plans in the commercial, Medicaid and Medicare markets. For more information, visit