Nichole Burnside

Nichole BurnsideMeet Nichole Burnside

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager

Nichole Burnside began her role as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager at the School of Public Health. She will be leading SPH's DE&I plan along with a team of faculty, staff and students.

What attracted you to this line of work?  

My love for diversity, equity and inclusion has always been a part of me. In high school, along with three other students, I started a group called "Cultural Outreach". We would reach out to different groups in school - different demographics - to make people feel included. It was a predominantly white district, but there were other cultural backgrounds there as well.

I just wanted everyone to feel like they had friends. Since I had lived in that community for my entire  life, I wanted to make sure people who had just moved there felt included. My love for cultural diversity started there.

I've always had a passion for treating everyone the same. To know that people can be discriminated against because of something they have no control over is disheartening. I am very concerned with making a world for our children that is more empathetic.

How did you end up at the School of Public Health?

I've been at U-M for about 15 years. I started off in transcripts and certifications. Once at U-M, I began joining different groups like the Association of Black Professionals that would allow me to network and meet other individuals.

I spent six years at the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR). I helped start their community engagement program, which increased enrollment of  underrepresented groups  in clinical and health research. I would help community groups partner with faculty to write research proposals, I would visit communities and community groups. At MICHR I also served as a research administrator. This would allow me to understand the process to obtain funding and then the processes needed to increase participation in clinical research, so I could understand getting the research funded, and also how having the right participants in the study will lead to enhanced health care decisions . With data geared toward one demographic group, you may not get the correct solutions.

More recently I worked for the Institute for Social Research. The DE&I Strategic Plan across the University was being introduced at that time, and I volunteered to participate as ISR staff representative. So along with my colleagues, I drafted the staff portion of the strategic plan. It was a passion of mine - and I wanted others to know that DE&I is not just an add-on. It's a value.

It is very exciting for me to see how DE&I is being treated at Michigan.

How do you view your role at SPH?

A structure is not sustainable without a foundation. That's how we need to operate with DE&I. We can’t build an inclusive workforce for today’s community and tomorrow’s leaders without DE&I: then it becomes a part of how we live our daily lives.

I am so encouraged by the spirit at SPH. People want to be here. I want to enhance that love for this community, and bring more exposure to the work being done here. We can continue to reach more demographics of people and show them the power of SPH, and bring them into this community.

We need to have meaningful conversations, and we need to be able to have those hard conversations. I want to break down barriers for students, so we can start training our students now that DE&I is a way of life -- they will be faculty one day. As they grow, they'll teach those that come after them.

What is your favorite part of the U-M Community?

I love football season because everyone on campus is so energetic. The students are back, classes are underway and there is a lot of excitement. If you are wearing Maize and Blue, we all connect! You're a part of us -- it doesn't matter what you look like.


My husband Shawn works at AT&T as design engineer. My daughter Ariana is nine years-old, and my son Ryan is five years-old.


We love to travel. I am very close to my mom and sisters; we spend a lot of time together, especially during the summer. We love watching movies and spending time with one another. My children both play sports and that keeps us very busy.